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
As we mentioned, it makes no sense.
The loophole has led to the disproportionate arrests of young minorities
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
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
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
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
See the complete list here.