Weed Fans: Senate Republicans To Blame For "Public View" Marijuana Buzz-Kill
We're talking to you, Senate Republicans.
As we reported earlier, a bill that would decriminalize the "public view" loophole in New York's marijuana possession law appears to be dead in the water -- and weed fans are pissed.
The Drug Policy Alliance, one of the many groups pushing the bill, is holding Republicans in the Senate responsible for killing the bill, which they consider "a responsible measure to address the inconsistency and unfairness in the marijuana possession laws in New York."
Taking the brunt of the ire is Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who made an ass of himself recently with his comment that "being able to walk around with 10 joints in each ear" is wrong and should be a misdemeanor, even though doing it in your apartment only is a violation.
"It wasn't too long ago that we referred to the 'three men in a room' when discussing the leadership structure in Albany. Now when we talk about leadership in the Senate, we should talk about 'one guy in Brooklyn', Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says. "While we are disappointed by the lack of action, we're not going anywhere. This campaign for reform has already scored a major victory by bringing this issue to the attention of New Yorkers and the entire country. We cannot and will not accept a situation where the laws are applied differently to different people based on their race or ethnicity or where they live. We'll keep pushing for reform, for fairness, equality, and justice. Given the overwhelming support by law enforcement for this proposal, I think Majority Leader. Skelos and even [New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike] Long will come to do what's right."
As we've mentioned, closing the "public view" loophole has overwhelming support in the law enforcement community. See the laundry list of supporters below:
· NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly called it "a balanced approach." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who published an op-ed in support of legislation, also said the measure would bring greater "safety and fairness" to the criminal justice system," and called it "the right thing to do." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo's office)
· Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes said the measure would "go a long way toward a more balanced approach to drug related offenses." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo)
· Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the proposal "strikes the right appropriate balance between the needs of law enforcement and the concerns of the community," and would "enhance the fair operation of our criminal justice system." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said the proposal would "make the law consistent and obviate the need for many arrests which erode the trust between the community and law enforcement." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· State Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who ran for Attorney General on the Republican line, said the measure would allow NYPD to "reallocate some of its resources to address more serious crimes." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice - the top law enforcement official in Sen. Dean Skelos's district, called the proposal a "common sense reform," and said the measure would "enhance community relationships with law enforcement," calling such relationships "the most important tool we have in keeping neighborhoods safe." (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said that "the NYC PBA is very supportive" of the measure as it would provide "clear and precise directions" to law enforcement officers. (June 4, 2012, Press Release, Gov. Cuomo office)
· Rochester Police Chief Jim Sheppard praised the measure and said it would stop the practice of needlessly "putting kids into the system which obviously if they get into the system it makes it hard for them to have gainful employment and that can create more crime for us." (June 5, CBS News 8, Rochester).
Marijuana was decriminalized in New York in the 1970s with the passage of the Marijuana Reform Act, which made possession of small amounts 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."
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.
Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the Senate's killing the "public view" weed bill at a press conference this afternoon in Albany. Albany Times Union scribe Jimmy Vielkind was there and sent us over the gov's comments.
"Many of the large issues, social issues, take more than a couple of weeks" for people to get used to, Cuomo said. "The Senate had a lot of blowback, pardon the pun."
So, there you have it, New York -- smoking weed in your apartment is still about as serious a violation as a parking ticket. But if you smoke it in "public view," you're a criminal. Makes (ahem) perfect sense.
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.