Cuomo’s Plan To Decriminalize Weed In “Public View” Has Support Of Pretty Much Everyone


As we reported earlier, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to make possession of marijuana even less illegal than it already is — a move that apparently has the support of just about everyone.

The governor’s office put out a press release this afternoon announcing Cuomo’s plan to make possessing weed in “public view” a violation (currently, it’s a misdemeanor, despite the fact that “private” marijuana was decriminalized in New York in the 1970s). In the release, the governor included quotes from a laundry list of district attorneys, and other law enforcement officials, who support the the move. The list includes the D.A.s from all five counties in New York City, as well as NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was tagged as a racist by civil liberties groups because of the disproportionate number of minorities arrested for marijuana
possession under the city’s
controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy.

“Today’s announcement is about creating fairness and consistency in our
laws since there is a blatant inconsistency in the way we deal with
small amounts of marijuana possession,” Cuomo says. “This is an
issue that disproportionately affects young people — they wind up with a
permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a
violation. The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job.
Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that
every New Yorker has access to justice system that doesn’t discriminate
based on age or color.” 

As we mentioned in prior posts, minorities are jailed at a much higher rate than white
people who get busted with weed, which has much to do with illegal
searches by police 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.

According to the governor’s office, 94 percent of all arrests for
small amounts of marijuana (less than 25 grams) in New York happen in
New York City.

Below is a list of government and law enforcement officials who are in favor of Cuomo’s plan.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “What Governor Cuomo is
proposing, is a logical and, unfortunately, necessary clarification of
the law as it exists today. It has become clear that marijuana
possession is being used, regrettably, to permanently scar and taint the
records of thousands of young citizens, predominantly people of color,
who have no record of prior criminal conviction. It is excessive on its
face and we need to address the issue thoughtfully and swiftly.”

Assemblymember Karim Camara, Chair of the New York State Black,
Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “We commend
Governor Cuomo for working to bring fairness to our justice system. This
legislation will ensure that possession of a small amount of marijuana,
whether public or private, is treated as a violation and not as a
misdemeanor. This minor offense has dragged down the future of too many
New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, leading to the deterioration
of communities across the state. By properly updating the law, the
Governor is helping to create a safer and stronger state for all New

Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries said, “Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo is
advancing legislation to standardize penalties associated with
marijuana possession, in order to end existing practices, which
needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law
enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious
crime. For years, thousands of New Yorkers, who are disproportionately
Black and Latino youth, have been charged with unnecessary misdemeanors,
thereby creating barriers for future employment and intensifying
tensions between law enforcement and communities. This legislation will
ensure that individuals who possess small amounts of marijuana are
sanctioned appropriately while avoiding permanent damage on their
records. I thank the Governor for treating all New Yorkers justly under
New York State law.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “The proposed legislation
takes a balanced approach and comports with the spirit of the NYPD
operations order issued on the subject last year. Further, the
department’s ongoing quality of life enforcement is supported by
preserving the penalties for smoking marijuana in public.”

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said, “Safety and fairness are the
twin pillars of our criminal justice system. That is why I support
Governor Cuomo’s proposed changes to the law governing possession of
marijuana. This simple and fair change will help us redirect significant
resources to the most violent criminals and serious crime problems,
and, frankly, it is the right thing to do.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said, “I fully support
Governor Cuomo’s change in the marijuana law. This legislation will go a
long way toward a more balanced approach to drug related offenses and
complement other progressive initiatives already serving our community.
It will lead to a more efficient use of law enforcement resources. I
applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership on this matter.”

Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “The proposed
legislation strikes the appropriate balance between the needs of law
enforcement and the concerns of the community. We join our colleagues in
law enforcement in supporting the governor’s legislation which will
enhance the fair operation of our criminal justice system.”

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said, “Simply put, there is
no need for the “public view” portion of this law. The legislature has
already decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is of
minimal concern to our society. Governor Cuomo’s proposal would make the
law consistent and obviate the need for many arrests which erode the
trust between the community and law enforcement.”

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. said, “The
Governor was prudent to address some of the concerns that I and other
prosecutors had when these changes were first proposed. The law will
continue to address the disturbance caused by people who openly smoke
marijuana in public, and does not prevent officers from requiring
identification from a violator, thus ensuring that someone wanted for a
serious crime does not get away with just a ticket. On the other hand, I
am hopeful the NYPD will be able to reallocate some of its resources to
address more serious crimes, and to continue to keep this city the
safest big city in America.”

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, “Through this
common sense reform of the penal code, which encourages fairness and
consistency in the law, Governor Cuomo is enhancing community
relationships with law enforcement. As a prosecutor, I know our
relationship with the community is the most important tool we have in
keeping neighborhoods safe. This reform will enable police officers to
continue making our streets safer while focusing on more serious crimes.
I applaud his efforts and I look forward to implementing these
necessary changes.”

New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J.
Lynch said, “The Governor’s call for the changes in police response to
contraband discovered pursuant to a properly conducted stop, question
and frisk make sense and runs parallel with a recent policy change
issued by the Police Commissioner. The NYC PBA is very supportive of
clear and precise directions to its members regarding their police
responsibilities in specific instances.”

Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance,
said, “Overly punitive charges have a harmful effect on our justice
system. They can ruin lives, waste taxpayer money on unneeded trials,
and breed distrust between communities and law enforcement. Currently,
this is the case with public possession of small amounts of marijuana,
particularly for communities of color, but with Governor Cuomo’s
legislation, this injustice can soon be a thing of the past. The
Governor should be commended for his leadership and for his continued
efforts to make our justice system fairer for all New Yorkers.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties
Union, said, “Communities and law enforcement must work together as
partners in order to keep our state safe. However, unreasonably harsh
charges for small offenses erode the trust that is necessary for this
partnership to succeed. That is why Governor Cuomo’s legislation is so
important. By making the penalty for public and private possession of
minor amounts of marijuana a violation, this legislation will help
restore trust between communities and law enforcement. In the end, New
York will be a safer state because of this legislation.”