New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to decriminalize the public possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana during his 2013 State of the State address. Governor Cuomo had previously announced his support for a similar legislative proposal in 2012, but state lawmakers failed to act on it.
Under state law, the private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. By contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view is classified as a criminal misdemeanor [NY State Penal Law 221.10].
In 2011, New York City law enforcement spent $75 million arresting approximately 50,000 minor marijuana offenders under Penal Law 221.10. Many of these offenders had marijuana on their person, and only revealed the cannabis publicly after being ordered by police to empty their pockets during ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches. According to the Governor’s office, 94 percent ofarrests for small amounts of marijuana in the state are in New York City. Over 85 percent of those charged were either African American or Latino.
The public supports this reform measure, recent polling from Sienna College found that 63% of New York State residents supported decriminalizing the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in public view to a fine only violation.
Equalizing cannabis penalties will save taxpayer dollars, protect citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests.
NORML will continue to update you in the coming weeks as this proposal moves forward.