Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cuomo: Possession of marijuana not a crime

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the speaker of the Assembly came out in support of a change in the law so that publicly possessing small quantities of pot would no longer be a misdemeanor, reported the New York Times. “This is primarily a young-person problem, about 60 percent,” said Gov. Cuomo. “And primarily, overwhelmingly, a problem for the black and brown community, 94 percent of the convictions.”

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, have overseen a vigorous marijuana enforcement effort. About 400,000 people have been arrested over the last 10 years for breaking New York State Penal Law 221.10, which makes it a misdemeanor to openly possess or burn less than an ounce of pot, reported the Times.

In a startling turnaround, both Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly said that they supported the change in the law.

According to the Times, Cuomo also privately promised to fix a few lines in the laws governing marijuana possession, the changes he proposed this week. Currently, having a small quantity of pot is not a crime if it is not visible; it is merely a violation, like a traffic summons. However, if the pot is openly displayed, it is a misdemeanor. So, people ordered to turn out their pockets by a police officer are displaying marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Those misdemeanor charges, Mr. Cuomo said, were an “aggravated complication” of searches conducted in New York City. Last year, about 700,000 people were stopped, questioned, and in many cases, searched; most of those people were black and Latino.

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