New York Governor asks to decriminalize possession of pot in public view

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is asking legislators to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is fighting back because he believes that destroying the job prospects of 50,000 people a year (mainly young black and Latino men) benefits society, and wants continue to use a sneaky police tactic to arrest them.

NewImageIn New York, the Legislature in 1977 reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.

But it remains a misdemeanor if the marijuana is in public view or is being smoked in public, and lawmakers and drug-reform advocates have argued that the misdemeanor charge is often unfairly applied to suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets.

“Now it’s in public view,” Professor Levine said. “If you go by the police reports, all around New York City, there are people standing around with their palms outstretched with a bit of marijuana in them.”

From 2002 to 2011, New York City recorded 400,000 low-level marijuana arrests, according to his analysis. That represented more arrests than under Mr. Bloomberg’s three predecessors put together — a period of 24 years. Most of those arrested have been young black and Hispanic men, and most had no prior criminal convictions.

Cuomo Seeks Cut in Frisk Arrests


  1. The NY legislature should have seen that coming.  Police and prosecutors will use or abuse any law or legal loophole to get their numbers up.  Sloppy lawmaking.

    1. The NY legislature can’t see sunrise coming. They are as dysfunctional, feeble and inept a group of people as could possibly be assembled.  They scheme and gripe and embezzle and occasionally pass a law that won’t do anyone any good. One guy introduced a bill to ban the use of salt in restaurants.  He was promptly contacted by bakers explaining that it would be impossible to bake bread. They are also taking their time to fix a law that prevents summer camps from hiring nurses. Yay for representative government. 

  2. Isn’t there already a public smoking ban in NYC? If people do not desire to have unwanted cigarette smoke around them then I think it is fair to have the same desire respected for cannabis smoke.

    1. That’s the point. These people aren’t SMOKING the pot, they just have it on them – until they get told to put it out on the ground. THEN they get charged for public view. Evil, stupid and misguided – just like most drug laws, really.

      1.  “But it remains a misdemeanor if the marijuana is in public view or is being smoked in public”

  3. Prosecuting people because they broke the law when ordered to (or physically forced to!) by a police officer is a bad idea regardless. It’s like a policeman ordering you to come with him then arresting you for trespassing because you followed him onto private property.

    1.  Which has happened.

      When you have no witnesses other than a second policeman, you are at their mercy, subject to whatever whim happens to their minds. The possibilities are endless and sad.

      Never trust authority that is not subject to the authority and oversight of the citizenry.

  4. Simple solution would be to amend the law to exempt the misdemeanor charges if the result of the public view was due to a police search. The intent of the law remains, and you no longer can get busted on a stop and frisk. The police will fight that change, but I it should easily pass the New York Legislature since it’s not really changing the law itself. Public selling and consumption would still be covered as the law originally intended. Just closing a loophole that the police are taking advantage of.
    The stop-and-frisk is popular with the police because of the massive number of arrests it generates. All you need is a few cops on a corner. Someone has some pot in their pocket, you generate an arrest. Statistically, it looks good for the precinct. (Clearing the criminal element off the street and protecting the public!)You remove the incentive by exempting the public display during a stop-and-frisk, and the police will simply no longer employ the stop-and-frisk.

  5. Born and raised NY’er here. The thing is…if you’re white, and the NYPD catches you with some weed, they’ll likely take it (sometimes not), write you a ticket (possibly) and send you on your merry way (no cuffs). The really messed up thing is if you’re black or latino, and get caught with weed you’re going to Central Booking. This is definitely a race and class issue, and I hope Cuomo can railroad this through.

    When I was young and dumb, I got caught smoking a joint on the Jay St. platform at 3am. The cop took my joint, asked me if I was stupid and wrote me an $86 ticket for smoking in the subway.  That’s really a pretty fair way to deal with possession I think.

    1. No. A “fair” way to deal with possession would be to ignore it, as marijuana should not be illegal.

      1.  No, smoking on the subway platform still ought to be illegal – the cop treated him reasonably for being stupid while ignoring the political correctness crime.

  6. “…he believes that destroying the job prospects of 50,000 people a year (mainly young black and Latino men) benefits society.”

    According to the statistics linked in the article, most of these admittedly stupid charges are dropped or dismissed. But I had no idea that 50,000 idiotic marijuana arrests alone were the cause of unemployment among the groups you mention. That’s amazing.

      1. Some relief for the large % of the “50,000 people” arrested whose cases were dismissed.

        1. Get it sealed. Although you cannot expunge a misdemeanor in New York State, records about any case that was dismissed or that was otherwise terminated in your favor can be sealed.

  7. “suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets.”

    What if cops strip searched people in public, and then arrested the suspects for indecency?

  8. Public service announcement: New York is a state, too.  More than half of its population lives outside of Bloomberg’s grip, and Bloomberg is not the governor.  That is all.

    1. It’s time to put the pressure on all these idiots to stop wasting our tax dollars and people’s lives with this utter nonsense.

  9. Making nature illegal continues to be one of the ultimate expressions of human hubris.

  10. This is all about money! Even as a violation, 400,000 arrests times $100 is still $40,000,000. If they can convert it into a misdemeanor that goes to $200,000,000. Why would Bloomberg want to kill that revenue stream?

    1. I’d like to see you collect on that $200,000,000. And what do you think happens to the state economy when 400,000 people are effectively removed from the local workforce due to a drug-related misdemeanor conviction on their record?

      I’d much rather have 400,000 productive, tax-paying, happy people with no criminal record. But maybe you really need $200,000,000 that badly that you’re willing to ruin several hundred thousand peoples’ lives thanks to a nasty trick used by police officers.

      1. There’s nothing about Dave Nelson’s comment that suggests that he thinks it’s a good idea.  He’s just pointing out that government is sometimes motivated by income, not justice.

        1. Fair enough. I did kind of actually mean ‘you’ as “people in charge in New York” more than Dave Nelson. The pessimist in me also knows that he’s fairly right.

  11. You should update this article.  Bloomberg backs the Governor’s plan.  And in fact, the NYT article stated that Cuomo was acting “in spite of a September directive from the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who instructed officers not to arrest people who take small amounts of marijuana out of their pockets or bags after being stopped by the police.”  That doesn’t make sense.  “In spite of” how?  It’s exactly the same thing!

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