Will New York Decriminalize Marijuana Possession?

It hardly seems likely in the city where cops virtually trick people into showing them their pot, but Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg seem to agree on decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Last week Governor Cuomo introduced legislation that would make possession of less than 25 grams of pot a non-criminal offense. Right now if you are caught with that same amount of pot in the open, you face misdemeanor charges, while possessing it away from public display is considered non-criminal.

It’s this slight difference that has caused misdemeanor pot arrests to go through the roof in recent years, shedding a spotlight on the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. A cop asks a suspect to empty their pockets. When they do and marijuana is found, they can arrest them for misdemeanor possession because they brought the pot into public view. Under the new legislation, this wouldn’t happen.

In 1990, there were about 2,000 arrests in NYC for misdemeanor pot possession In 2010 and 2011, that number was more than 50,000 per year.

Several states have already decriminalized marijuana possession, and considering the time and funds spent on these low level crimes in New York, decriminalization would seem to be a win-win for everyone involved.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has also expressed support for the measure. He attempted to cut down on misdemeanor possession arrests, calling on his department to stop making arrests for small amounts unless they were displayed “in plain view.” But his directive didn’t have the dramatic effect he was hoping it would.

“The police would not be inhibited in any way from confiscating marijuana, and they could still take an individual down to the precinct, and if someone were to continue to possess marijuana, a judge would still have the option for a jail sanction,” explained Gabriel Sayegh, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. He went on to say that marijuana possession arrests accounted for one in every seven arrests over the past few years.

Growing approval for decriminalization, if not all-out legalization, exists across the country. States are making progressive moves towards a lessening of the criminal penalties associated with marijuana, despite the federal government’s continued attack on any effort towards the usage of the substance.

Make no mistake, however, marijuana is still a controlled substance and possessing it can result in criminal penalties. If you are accused of a marijuana crime or any drug crime for that matter, we may be able to help. Contact us today to discuss your case and your options within the New York court system.

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