New York's "Public View" Marijuana Law Ranked "Dumbest Drug Law" In America
Of all the ineffective, unfair and idiotic drug laws out there, New York's "public view" marijuana law officially is the dumbest -- according to a recent ranking of idiotic drug laws, anyway.
We've been covering the debate over the controversial law for several months. It essentially says that having small amounts of marijuana in your apartment is only a violation, while having the same amount of marijuana in the street -- for some stupid reason -- is a misdemeanor. In short, we've come to the conclusion that the law makes absolutely no sense and is often used to target minorities.
In any event, Reason.com -- which recently ranked the country's dumbest drug laws -- seems to agree with our assessment of "public view marijuana," and has given the Empire State the gold medal in terms of idiotic drug policies.
The website notes that "In New York, following a police officer's instructions can lead to criminal charges." That's because -- as we've noted in several prior posts -- if a person is stopped and has marijuana in their pocket, it's not considered to be in "public view" until they take it out. So, if a cop asks you if you have any drugs on you, and you answer "yes, I have weed in my pocket," it's only a violation (that's about as serious as a parking ticket). If the officer asks you to take it out, and you do, it is then in "public view," and is a misdemeanor, which could potentially land you in jail. If the officer takes the weed out of your pocket, you technically aren't the one presenting it in "public view," and therefor are only committing a violation.
The stupidity is dizzying.
Marijuana was decriminalized in New York in the 1970s thanks to the Marijuana Reform Act, which makes possession of marijuana a ticketable offense, rather than a crime that will go on your permanent record. However, a loophole in the law makes it a misdemeanor to possess weed in "public view."
As we mentioned, it makes no sense.
The loophole has led to the disproportionate arrests of young minorities (of the roughly 50,000 people arrested each year in New York for low-level marijuana offenses, 87 percent are black or Hispanic), who fall victim to the law because of the City's uber-controversial "Stop and Frisk" policy.
Lawmakers have since taken notice, and several have supported a plan to decriminalize "public view" marijuana -- but only because it's led to the disproportionate arrests of minorities, not because it's a stupid law.
Just to illustrate how dumb this law really is, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos earlier this year said "being able to walk around with 10 joints in each ear and it would only be a violation -- I think that's wrong,"
Aside from the fact that your run-of-the-mill ear can't accommodate "10 joints," as the law is currently written, "walking around with 10 joints in each ear" is a mere violation -- as long as you do it behind closed doors.
In other words, you can currently walk around your apartment with 50 joints in each ear and it's only a violation. However, the second you step outside, you're a criminal, and could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Some of the other laws to make Reason's list of dumb drug laws include a law in Louisiana that makes it illegal for teenagers to buy magazines that talk about drugs, and a law in California that taxes legal marijuana dispensaries to pay for raids on...well, legal marijuana dispensaries.
But New York's "public view" marijuana law takes the cake. So congratulations, New York: we have the dumbest drug law in the entire country.
See the complete list here.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- 'Convicting Peter Liang Is Not a Conviction of the NYPD,' Prosecutor Concludes
Sun., Feb. 14, 2:00pm
Sun., Feb. 14, 7:30pm
Mon., Feb. 15, 1:00pm
Tue., Feb. 16, 7:00pm
- Group for Homeless LGBT Youth Moves a Step Closer to Buying Terrible Anti-Gay Church...
- Voice Letters: Readers Share Their Energy Service Company Horror Stories