Cuomo Wants Unfair Marijuana Arrests To End

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The legislation would save thousands of New Yorkers, disproportionately minority youth, from unnecessary arrests that can permanently damage an individual’s record and ability to find a job.

[Op-Ed]

Under current state law, individuals in possession of small amounts of marijuana in private view – for example, kept in their pocket or home – are subject to a violation, punishable by a maximum fine of $100 for first time offenders.

However, individuals who are caught with the same amount in public view – for example, held in an open hand – can be arrested and charged with a crime. In New York State last year, over 50,000 arrests were made for possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. Of the individuals arrested, 50% were between the ages of 16 and 24, and 85% were either Black or Hispanic.

To bring fairness to New York State’s marijuana laws, Governor Cuomo announced legislation this week that would make individuals caught with small amounts of marijuana in public view subject to the same penalties as those caught with the same amount in private possession.

The legislation would save thousands of New Yorkers, disproportionately minority youth, from unnecessary arrests that can permanently damage an individual’s record and ability to find a job.

"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,” Governor Cuomo said Monday, joined by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Assemblyman Keith Wright, our new state co-chair, as well as district attorneys and other law enforcement officials from across the state.


Here's the Governor’s proposed legislation



Assemblyman Jeffries commended Governor Cuomo on acting to end existing practices, which he says, “needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime.”

By standardizing New York State's marijuana laws, the Governor is working to end inconsistent practices that are adversely harming our minority youth communities.


Charlie King is Executive Director, New York State Democratic Committee



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