New York governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state and he’s got the support of New York City’s police commissioner and mayor, plus a broad swath of local politicians who just a few years ago may have scoffed at the notion of lessening penalties for drug possession.
Citing an “inconsistency” in state drug laws regarding small amounts of marijuana, Cuomo announced a bill to make the penalties for private and public possession the same, which he says will help people caught with less than 25 grams avoid “unnecessary” misdemeanor charges.
“This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people — they wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “the charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to [a] justice system that doesn’t discriminate based on age or color.”
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Currently, anyone caught with 25 grams or less of weed would be subject to a class B misdemeanor, which could mean up to 90 days in jail and a permanent mark on their record. But prison overcrowding and the significantly high number of arrests for low-level possession — more than 50,000 in New York City alone last year — has encouraged policy makers and law enforcement to rethink how the law is administered. Under the new bill, less than 25 grams would be subject only to a fine.
Federally, marijuana is still illegal.
Although Cuomo’s proposal speaks to simple possession, smoking, selling or otherwise holding larger amounts will still be dealt with by the law in the same manner, which satisfies New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, whose department had already been issuing violations over small amounts rather than locking up offenders.
“The proposed legislation takes a balanced approach and comports with the spirit of the NYPD operations order issued on the subject last year,” Kelly said. “Further, the department’s ongoing quality of life enforcement is supported by preserving the penalties for smoking marijuana in public.”
Several legislators and district attorneys around the New York City area and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg are also supportive of Cuomo’s proposal, believing it addresses their concerns about public use of the drug. Cuomo’s bill allows them to continue to prosecute on those violations, while freeing them from dealing with people who hold minimal amounts. Bloomberg says the proposal “strikes the right balance by ensuring that the NYPD will continue to have the tools it needs to maintain public safety – including making arrests for selling or smoking marijuana.”
Advocates for drug policy reform say they are finally seeing a long-fought battle turn in their favor.
“It’s a game-changing event to get the governor involved in this,” Gabriel Sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, tells TIME. He says the decades long fight against the so-called Rockefeller Drug laws — state statutes which mandated harsh prison sentences for several types of drug possession — helped change minds that would have been opposed to such a proposal just a few years ago.
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“We’re at a moment when over half of all America believes that pot should be legalized,” Sayegh says. “An overwhelming number of Americans believe putting people in jail for marijuana possession is a ridiculous waste of time and money.”
But there are those who believe that Cuomo is making a major misstep with decriminalization and worry about the message it will send to New York’s youth.
“I find it disturbing because I believe this bill will have the effect of making marijuana use seem acceptable to young people,” said David Evans, special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation.”What most people don’t understand is that marijuana of today is vastly different from marijuana of 20 years ago. It’s addictive and it’s quite a bit more potent, so if [the bill] is going to lessen young people’s perception on the dangers of marijuana, we’re against it.”
Sayegh, however, believes that if New York state lawmakers pass the bill, a major corner will be turned. “The legislature is going to end soon so we’ve got to get the senate to take action,” he said. “We’ve got a fight ahead, but this is different than where we’ve been before because there is almost no one coming out against this publicly.”
yeah its different alright it cost more its harder to get and it aint as good; shoot I use to go down the street and purchase panama red or gold without paying out my back side to feel better. The youth of america are trying different ways to get high... sniffing pam and snorting bath salts heck you think they would be tickled knowing there youth where smoking a little grass.
New to this site live in Hamlet NC have a need for medical marijuana will fight for the use. Get more to jion and sign the petition. Thanks Perry and everyone eles involved
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One very simple thing we can all do is to talk about this subjects amongst your friends, and family. Its an interesting topic to debate and I find that most opposed don't really know much about it except that is "bad". People are generally reasonable and if they know you to be an smart, common sense and reasonable person they will hear you out. You might now sway them on the first attempt as most people don't like to be forced into a position. You need to lead them down the path and let them decide for themselves and encourage them to be vocal about this matter. Talk to your friends and family get them to speak out as well and it will take off like wildfire.
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