NY Should Make Fewer Marijuana Arrests: Cuomo

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to change the state's marijuana possession law because of a "blatant inconsistency" in the way the law is enforced, New York's WNYC radio reports.

New York decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, making it only punishable by up to a $100 fine. But possessing marijuana "in public view" remains a misdemeanor that can lead to arrest.

That's what's been happening in New York City, where police routinely ask people they detain to empty their pockets in a procedure known as "stop and frisk." If marijuana is produced, it's technically "in public view," and the person gets arrested.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view is now the No. 1 cause of arrests in New York City, WNYC reports. NYPD officers arrested more than 50,000 people for the crime in 2011 -- a figure that represents one in seven arrests.

Most of the people arrested are black and Hispanic, and have no prior convictions, The New York Times reports. Because of their drug arrests, they later face problems finding jobs.

In total, more than 400,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession in public view over the last 10 years, according to The Times. The arrests continue, despite a September directive by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to stop arresting people for possessing pot in plain view.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed marijuana-possession revision would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot in public view, but not public pot-smoking. "The law will make certain that the confusion in this situation will be eliminated," Kelly said Monday.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also backs Cuomo's decriminalization plan. The change "strikes the right balance," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said he hoped state lawmakers would act quickly on Gov. Cuomo's plan to decriminalize marijuana possession in public view. There may be little time to act, however, as only three weeks remain in this year's legislative session, according to The Times.

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