Cuomo law would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana

June 4, 2012 3:09:56 PM PDT
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a historic change in marijuana laws that would keep tens of thousands of people from going to jail.

The governor says he wants to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

If lawmakers pass the measure, it will make Stop and Frisk less punishing to the hundreds of thousands of young people caught in the crime-fighting tactic.

Governor Cuomo's proposal does nothing to reduce the numbers of people stopped and frisked. It does make it less likely that those found to have a small amount of marijuana will be arrested.

"In terms of Stop and Frisk, a person has a small amount of marijuana in their pocket and that's a violation, a fine. A police officer says 'turn out your pockets.' Now it's a crime. Who could defend that?" Cuomo said.

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the stopping of mostly innocent people has increased 7-fold. Caught in that widening net: more than 400-thousand people tossed into the criminal justice system for a small possession of marijuana.

"More than ten times the number of arrests for marijuana under Bloomberg than under Guiliani," Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union believes decriminalizing marijuana could reduce the number of stop and frisks.

"It should because it reduces the incentive to stop and frisk people without suspicion," Lieberman said.

Cuomo is not the first governor to try and reign in Stop and Frisk. In 2010, Governor Patterson signed a law preventing the NYPD from keeping a Stop and Frisk data base of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

What really stood out this time was the presence of Commissioner Raymond Kelly who, along with Mayor Bloomberg, has super-accelerated Stop and Frisk and the number of young men arrested for having a little pot in their pockets.

"I think it's a balanced approach, but smoking and selling marijuana is still a misdemeanor crime," he said.

The Mayor, who insists Stop and Frisk is saving lives, says the governor's proposal strikes the right balance that ensures the NYPD will have the tools it needs to maintain public safety.


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