Reaction to Cuomo's marijuana bill
June 4th, 2012

When news broke today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted the Legislature to lower the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation, the perception was that he was taking a shot at Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s stop-and-frisk program.

But Bloomberg announced his support for the measure along with a host of city-based legislators and groups.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly even attended Cuomo’s news conference to announce the plan.

“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,” Cuomo said. “The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to [a] justice system that doesnt discriminate based on age or color.”

The move seemed targeted at New York City — 94 percent of the more than 500,000 arrests for 25 grams or less of marijuana in the state took place in the five boroughs.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has been the target of massive criticism because it is said to disproportionately target and result in the convictions of black and Latino youth. Cuomo said that 82 percent of those arrested for carrying marijuana were black and Latino.

Here is Bloomberg’s statement:

Last year, Police Commissioner Kelly issued a policy order directing officers to issue violations, rather than misdemeanors, for small amounts of marijuana that come into open view during a search ( The Governors proposal today is consistent with the Commissioners directive, and strikes the right balance by ensuring that the NYPD will continue to have the tools it needs to maintain public safety – including making arrests for selling or smoking marijuana. Thanks to the NYPD, our city has come a long way from the days when marijuana was routinely sold and smoked on our streets without repercussions. By preventing these crimes, and targeting police resources to where they are needed most, we have cut crime by 35 percent over the past decade. Commissioner Kelly will be attending the Governors press conference later today to show our support for his proposal, and we look forward to working with legislative leaders to help pass a bill before the end of session.

Sen. Danial Squadron:

“The ‘in plain view’ marijuana possession statute, and the inconsistent way in which it is enforced, call out for reform.

In large parts of our City, entire communities feel like suspects targeted by law enforcement instead of citizens protected by it. It is simply unfair that some New Yorkers – especially young black and latino men – are disproportionately singled out when it comes to enforcing this statute, one of the factors leading to major concerns with the way stop and frisk is implemented.

That’s why Governor Cuomo’s call to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view is an important step toward ending these inequities. By changing our state law, the Governor’s proposal can help ensure consistency and prevent a minor offense from undermining the future of many young New Yorkers.

Thank you to Governor Cuomo for taking the lead on repealing this statute, and to all of my colleagues in government who are working toward the reforms in police-community relations our City needs. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this much-needed reform before the end of the legislative session.”

Communities United For Police Reform:

The Governor’s welcome proposal would end the tens of thousands of racially-biased arrests that result from unlawful searches and false charges during stops. It would keep thousands of youth of color out of the punitive justice system, and make clear that the vast majority of the NYPDs stop-and-frisks are unlawful and useless. These discriminatory and unlawful practices cost the city of New York $75 million in 2011. Albanys decisive action on this would be a step towards stopping the NYPDs out of control use of aggressive and racially discriminatory tactics that target hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the city.

Councilman Jumaane Williams:

“I support Governor Cuomo’s efforts to correct our state’s laws in relation to the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view,” said Council Member Williams. “The discrepancies in the law, combined with the exponential rise of stop, question and frisks that overwhelmingly target communities of more color, have had devastating consequences for thousands of young men whose public records have been unfairly damaged. These arrests have cost New York City millions of dollars in litigation and related fees, dollars which ought to be targeted to programs that can direct our youth towards positive life choices. I hope the change that ultimately results will mirror previously introduced legislation from Assembly Member Jeffries and Senator Grisanti.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn:

I enthusiastically applaud Governor Cuomo for taking action to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view.

Tens of thousands of lives a year are permanently damaged as a result of the current law, with communities of color disproportionately affected. The fact of the matter is that Black and Latino men are the most likely to be stopped, questioned and frisked and are then ordered to empty their pockets during these encounters. Low level arrests for marijuana can have devastating life-long consequences. After an arrest, individuals can face unemployment, loss of housing for themselves and their families, rejection from colleges and universities and an inability to secure school loans.

The Governors action today is an important step forward, and will avoid further devastation of young New Yorkers futures. I urge the legislature to act on this proposal quickly.

That said, the NYPD, Mayor, and City Council have more work to do to reform stop and frisk policies. I strongly believe that broad based reforms are needed in training, monitoring, supervision, transparency and accountability. These changes must occur as soon as possible to reduce the unacceptable number of stops and heal the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.

I know that we can both keep crime at its historic low and protect the civil rights of all New Yorkers. That must be our commitment to the people of New York City.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

“What Governor Cuomo is proposing, is a logical and, unfortunately, necessary clarification of the law as it exists today. It has become clear that marijuana possession is being used, regrettably, to permanently scar and taint the records of thousands of young citizens, predominantly people of color, who have no record of prior criminal conviction. It is excessive on its face and we need to address the issue thoughtfully and swiftly.”

Assemblymember Karim Camara, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus:

“We commend Governor Cuomo for working to bring fairness to our justice system. This legislation will ensure that possession of a small amount of marijuana, whether public or private, is treated as a violation and not as a misdemeanor. This minor offense has dragged down the future of too many New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, leading to the deterioration of communities across the state. By properly updating the law, the Governor is helping to create a safer and stronger state for all New Yorkers.”

Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries:

“Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo is advancing legislation to standardize penalties associated with marijuana possession, in order to end existing practices, which needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime. For years, thousands of New Yorkers, who are disproportionately Black and Latino youth, have been charged with unnecessary misdemeanors, thereby creating barriers for future employment and intensifying tensions between law enforcement and communities. This legislation will ensure that individuals who possess small amounts of marijuana are sanctioned appropriately while avoiding permanent damage on their records. I thank the Governor for treating all New Yorkers justly under New York State law.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly:

“The proposed legislation takes a balanced approach and comports with the spirit of the NYPD operations order issued on the subject last year. Further, the department’s ongoing quality of life enforcement is supported by preserving the penalties for smoking marijuana in public.”

By on June 4, 2012, 9:00 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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