NY's Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Goes to Pot

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's much ballyhooed plan to decriminalize pot won't happen this year, as Republican state lawmakers are refusing to support the idea, The New York Times reports.

Cuomo announced two weeks ago he wanted to change the state's marijuana possession laws. Under his plan, the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view -- the No. 1 cause of arrests in New York City -- would no longer be a crime. New York City's mayor, police commissioner, and prosecutors from all five boroughs supported the proposal.

But with this year's legislative session set to end Thursday, Gov. Cuomo seems to have run out of time to make a deal with reticent Republicans.

"We do not support [pot] decriminalization," the Senate's Republican majority leader told The Times on Monday night.

Monday night was the deadline for a marijuana decriminalization bill to be introduced before Thursday's end of session. That's because New York's constitution mandates a three-day waiting period for lawmakers and the public to review a bill's language before a vote.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call a special session later this year, he told The Times the issue wasn't "that urgent that it can't take more time." The next legislative session begins in January.

In New York, the possession of under 25 grams of pot has already been decriminalized; it's only punishable by up to a $100 fine.

But possessing marijuana "in public view" is a misdemeanor, and led to more than 50,000 arrests in 2011 in New York City alone. Most of the arrests have occurred when police officers "stop and frisk" young blacks and Hispanics on the street; having a criminal record later makes it more difficult for those arrested to land a job, critics contend.

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