New York: Governor Says He Won’t Consider Pay Increases For Lawmakers Until Politicians Address Marijuana Reforms

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

Albany, NY:  Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo restated his support this week in favor of legislation  to  equalize the state’s marijuana possession penalties.

Speaking Tuesday at the New York State Trooper Class of 2012 graduation ceremony,  Cuomo said that he “would not consider” convening a special legislative session  unless lawmakers were willing to consider reforms to reduce New York City’s  skyrocketing marijuana arrest rates.  Assembly and Senate lawmakers have requested a special legislative  session be held following the Presidential election so that they can vote on a  pay raise.

Under state  law, the  private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil  citation, punishable by a $100 fine. By  contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view is a criminal  misdemeanor [NY State Penal Law 221.10].

In 2011, New York City law  enforcement spent $75 million arresting approximately 50,000 minor marijuana offenders under Penal Law 221.10. Many of these offenders had marijuana on  their person, and only revealed the cannabis publicly after being ordered by police to empty their pockets during  ‘stop-and-frisk‘ searches. According to  the Governor’s office, 94 percent of arrests for small amounts of marijuana in the state are in New York  City. Over 85 percent of those charged were either African American or Latino.

Governor Cuomo publicly criticized  the law in June and endorsed legislation to close the ‘public view’  loophole. However, that reform was  opposed by Senate majority leader, Republican Dean Skelos, who said, “Being able to just walk around with ten joints in  each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”

New York City Council Member for Council District 8, Melissa  Mark-Viverito, praised Gov. Cuomo’s stance.  “I commend New  York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The  People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana  arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators,” she  said in a press release. “I strongly  support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican  State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize  possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust  stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their  pockets during stops. … The new law  would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and  not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Sincethere are currently over  50,000annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession  in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth.”

For  more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at  (202) 483-5500 or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at: erik@norml.org.

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