New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday proposed lowering the penalty for public possession of small amounts of marijuana, reducing the infraction from a misdemeanor to a violation.
“This proposal will bring long overdue consistency and fairness to New York State’s Penal Law and save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution,” a Cuomo administration official said in an email to the New York Times
, reports Bill Hutchinson of the New York Daily News.
The state decriminalized the possession of less than 25 grams of cannabis back in 1977, lowering the penalty to a violation carrying a fine for possession. If the marijuana is lit or in “public view,” the infraction rises to a misdemeanor, which leads to arrest.
|Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York wants to lower pot possession penalties in the Empire State|
But some police officers, especially in New York City, arrest thousands of people every year on the elevated misdemeanor charges by tricking marijuana users into getting the weed out of their pockets or purses, then charging them for having it in “public view.” The NYPD arrests more than 50,000 people every year on the bogus elevated misdemeanor charges, driven by their “stop-and-frisk” program which seems to mainly affect minority males.
New York City has, as a result, become infamous as the “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World.” Many observers have expressed disbelief that one of Earth’s largest cities, known as a center of culture, has such backwards pot policies.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has reminded the NYPD that they “cannot” trigger an arrest by telling people to empty their pockets. According to Kelly, most pot arrests in the city result from drug transactions or public pot smoking witnessed by officers.