NY proposes decriminalizing marijuana

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making another pitch for the state to decriminalize possession of some marijuana.

Cuomo quietly included the proposal in a 380-page State of the State message that he provided late Wednesday to the State Legislature.

"The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York state, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety," Cuomo's plan on page 191 of the report notes.

The idea will again stoke a debate in Albany after the issue gained prominence in 2012 -- when the Democratic governor first made the push to decriminalize possession of marijuana.

The measure was rejected by Senate Republicans, with then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos memorably saying, "Being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”
Skelos' comments were spoofed on "The Daily Show," which called him "Fran Narcington."

There was no immediate comment from Senate Republicans on whether they would revisit the idea; Skelos left office in 2015 after being charged and later convicted in a corruption case.

It was also uncertain whether Cuomo would submit the same bill as in 2012 -- which would have reduced the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of pot to a violation.

State law now makes it a misdemeanor if the drug is in public view, but it is a violation if it’s in private.

Cuomo has not supported the legalization of marijuana, which is now legal in seven states.

But he noted the changing landscape: New York in 2014 legalized medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms for patients with certain conditions, and the state in recent months loosened the regulations to make it more available to more people.

Also, neighboring Massachusetts last month legalized marijuana, raising new questions about how New York would enforce its laws.

"This measure reflects the national trend and dramatic shift in public opinion," Cuomo's message stated.
"Whereas other states have sought the full legalization of marijuana, this legislative change will specifically affect individual users and not reduce penalties on those who illegally supply and sell marijuana."

Cuomo's message noted that 90 percent of marijuana law violations nationally were for possession and not sale.

He also cited statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-marijuana group, that estimated New York City in 2010 spent $75 million to arrest and jail people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The book from Cuomo noted that the measure is part of his larger push to modernize New York's sentencing laws and remove mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenses.

 

Gannett


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