In his 2013 State of the State address last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed reducing the penalty for possession of 15 grams of cannabis or less in public view. Since 1977, New York State law has provided that any amount of cannabis that is burning or in public view is a crime, a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
As a putative 2016 presidential candidate who claims to want New York State to “remain [the]progressive capital of the nation,” Governor Cuomo’s modest proposal on public view cannabis possession and his opposition to medical cannabis aren’t sufficiently progressive. New York State has a proud history of progressive, intelligent leadership on cannabis policy, but since the mid-’90s, the law-enforcement industrial complex has driven state cannabis policy and allowed other states to pass us by. New York State needs real, radical reform of its cannabis laws and policies, which have been a catastrophe for our civil rights, finances and public health.
New York City’s Cannabis Arrest Crusade: The Beginning of the End, or Just Sops to Keep Stop-and-Frisk?
New York City added cannabis to its list of prohibited drugs in 1914, and New York State made cannabis sales a crime in 1927. In 1977, New York State made possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis in private a civil violation, but possession of any amount of cannabis that is burning or in public view is a crime. Since 1997, the NYPD has made over 600,000 arrests in its cannabis arrest crusade, mostly of young black and Latino men. In 2011, the NYPD made 50,684 arrests for simple cannabis possession, the second highest number in New York City history.
Most of the people arrested for cannabis possession weren’t smoking it when they were arrested, and only had a small amount of cannabis on them when they were searched, usually illegally, by the NYPD. In contrast, in the rest of New York State (which contains over 57% of the state’s population and is governed by the same cannabis laws as New York City), there were only 41,412 arrests for simple cannabis possession from 1997 to 2011 — almost 93% less than the arrests in New York City alone during the same period.
– Read the entire article at AlterNet.