Governor Andrew Cuomo today will reportedly ask state lawmakers to make marijuana even less illegal than it already is in the Empire State. Keep in mind, though, Cuomo is the same guy who’s still unwilling to support the legalization of marijuana used for medicinal purposes, despite enormous public support for prescription pot.
As it currently stands, possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York is about as serious a violation as a parking ticket — it was decriminalized in the 1970s. But there’s a loophole for law enforcement: if you possess marijuana, and display it in “public view,” you can get slapped with a misdemeanor. Cuomo’s plan would make it so that possession in “public view” also is only a violation.
Cuomo’s push for the further decriminalization of marijuana comes as New York City officials are catching some heat over the disproportionate number of minorities arrested for marijuana possession under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy.
Weed advocates say minorities are jailed at a much higher rate than white
people who get busted with weed, which has much to do with illegal
searches causing people to reveal their weed in public, thus committing a
Last month, the Drug Policy Alliance, a weed advocacy group, held a
rally at City Hall to draw attention to the racially lopsided number of
arrests for marijuana possession. The DPA cites a recent New York Times editorial claiming that
of the roughly 50,000 people arrested each year in New York for
low-level marijuana offenses, 87 percent are black or Hispanic.
“One New York City is for white people, where marijuana possession was
decriminalized in 1977, people are seldom stopped and frisked, and
mothers do not fear that their teenagers will be rounded up by the
police,” the group says. “The other New York City is for people of
color, where hundreds of thousands of people are stopped even though
most were entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, tens of thousands are
illegally searched, falsely charged, arrested and incarcerated for
marijuana possession (even though it’s not a crime in New York), and
mothers are afraid that the police may unlawfully arrest their young
In the last five years under the Bloomberg regime, the group says the
NYPD made more marijuana arrests than in
the twenty-four years under mayors Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch combined.
Again, despite marijuana being decriminalized in New York for more than
The group says low-level marijuana arrests make up 15-percent of the
total arrests made in the five boroughs, which makes marijuana
possession the “number one offense” in New York. And those arrests —
and the clogging of the court system they create — costs New York
City $75 million a year (again, that’s according to marijuana advocates
— we weren’t able to independently confirm the dollar amount).
of the exact dollar amount, cracking down on marijuana is costing the
city money — and it’s costing the city money as it’s cutting funding
for things like libraries and after-school programs.
Cuomo’s support for further decriminalizing marijuana comes just
weeks after the governor said he wouldn’t support a bill that would
legalize medical marijuana.
Cuomo’s said he’s “studying” the pros
and cons of medical marijuana, but that there isn’t enough time this year for the
Legislature to fine-tune the
bill into something he’d
consider signing (we suspect Cuomo’s stance on medical weed has
something to do with his presidential ambitions. More on that here).
“There are tremendous risks,” the governor told reporters in April. “I think the risks outweigh the benefits at this point.”
We asked the governor’s office what “risks” he was referring to, however, we were given no answer. More on that here.
So, if Cuomo has his way, people who use marijuana for medicinal
purposes (as well as those who use it for recreational purposes) will be able to possess weed in public without having to worry
about getting charged with a misdemeanor. However, they’ll still have to
buy that weed from a drug dealer (where it can’t be taxed or regulated) — rather than get it from a doctor —
as Cuomo weighs the risks of letting people who already are smoking pot to treat various ailments to continue to do so legally.