Jan 092013
 January 9, 2013

New York Marijuana PolicyCuomo: Marijuana Arrests That “Stigmatize and Criminalize…Must End Now”

Proposal Would Standardize Penalties, End Tens of Thousands of Annual Unlawful, Biased Marijuana Possession Arrests

Today in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo made a passionate call for reforming New York’s marijuana possession laws in order to reduce unlawful, biased, and costly arrests. The governor noted the discrepancy in the law between public and private possession of small amounts of marijuana, and proposed standardizing penalties for possession.

In his prepared written statement, the governor referenced the original intent of the marijuana possession law from 1977: “The legislature finds that arrests, criminal prosecutions, and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and wastes millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime.”

Today, marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City. The governor cited the harmful outcomes of these arrests – racial disparities, stigma, fiscal waste, criminalization - and called on the legislature to act:  ”It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now.”

A powerful statewide coalition of community groups, faith and civil rights leaders, parents and young people applauded the Governor’s strong leadership in tackling this issue.

“We cannot have the same laws applied differently to different groups of people when the dividing line is race,” said gabriel sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The governor’s proposal is an essential step towards bringing greater fairness and equity to both our drug laws and policing practices in our state. The criminalization of our young people must end — the legislature must now act now to pass the governor’s bill.”

Last year, Governor Cuomo introduced similar legislation to reform the law, but it the Senate refused to act – despite the fact that the reform proposal was supported by law enforcement leaders throughout the state, including Commissioner Ray Kelly, all five City district attorneys, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard, and many others.

“I hope Senator Skelos and the entire legislature heard Governor Cuomo loud and clear when he said it’s time to end marijuana arrests that ‘stigmatize and criminalize’ young people of color, which have been one of the leading consequences of stop and frisk,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Organizer. “Governor Cuomo’s right that these arrests mean more than a night in jail – they can have lasting effects on a person’s access to jobs, housing and a better future.”

“With stop and frisk and needless criminalization, too many of our young people are swept up in the criminal justice system. Governor Cuomo’s reform proposal is a critical step towards a brighter future for our youth,” said  Kyung Ji Kate Rhee of   Center for NuLeadership. “Instead of wasting money on these arrests, we should be investing in community development and resources that are far more effective at guiding our youth in the choices they make towards fulfilling their best potential.”

The need for reform is abundantly clear: In the last 15 years, over 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, mostly in New York City. More than 50,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in the City in 2011 alone, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests from 1981-1995. Most of those arrested, nearly 85%, are Black and Latino, mostly young men – despite federal government data on drug use showing that whites use marijuana at higher rates. The costs of these arrests to taxpayers is at least $75 million a year. Last year, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling on Albany to act. Governor Cuomo’s proposal would end tens of thousands of racially biased and unlawful marijuana possession.

Press Release From The Drug Policy Alliance

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About Jay Smoker

I have been smoking marijuana for almost twenty years and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. My life was turned upside down in 2009 after getting arrested and tossed in jail for being in the wrong state with legal medical marijuana. I got fed up, and I now devote all my time to ending this insanity.I am responsible for the technical side of this project, but try to chip in when I can, either with syndicated articles or original content.Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.Feel free to email. any questions or concerns. Peace!
  • incogneatow

    Is that marijuana I smell? No sir, that’s the smell of positive progressive change…

    Cuomo just needs to legalize and then watch the murder rate in NYC start to decline (cannabis tempers aggression – MJ brownies should be served in prison, imagine what yard time would look like). Decriminalization is just one step in the long awaited walk toward improved personal civil liberty and fiscal responsibility. Cuomo needs to take a leap (or join in LEAP’s mission) and tax & reg.

    I’m growing impatient. Stop pussy footing (LOL – pussy footing?) around and sign a legislative act to legalize, otherwise your just waisting time and money while postponing the inevitable.

  • John13

    Really? Last year he said there wasn’t enough research on the topic of medical and there had to be further study. Now because pot is the most studied in the world, he is either an idiot or a liar, either of which, he should be yanked from office. God forbid he would do something that would help all of NY north and west of Albany.

    • Arthur Borko

      It seems he has caught up on the research and made a decision. One that goes in the right direction. What exactly are you harping on?

      • http://www.facebook.com/bob.w.knight Bob William Knight

        hes had lotsa chances to stop ny plain sight arrests but did nothing .hes a weasel!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/bob.w.knight Bob William Knight

      hes 2 faced and a poor excuse of a mayor

  • Apparition

    Cuomo is also proposing that New York enact the most restrictive firearms laws in the country. This direct infringement upon our rights is far more telling of his nature than (barely) being on the right side of the cannabis issue. And unfortunately, it has more support in the NY legislature as well.

  • Arthur Borko

    That’s great, but what about removing the Taxi and Limosine Commission Drug Testing requirement, or removing marijuana from the list of drugs they test for. It’s nobody’s business if a cabbie smokes at home off duty.