N.Y. medical marijuana and "decrim fix" bills pass Assembly, move to Senate
Two important bills have recently passed the New York Assembly and await consideration in the Senate: a bill legalizing marijuana for seriously ill patients and a bill that would fix the "public view" loophole in New York's decriminalization law.
A recent poll showed 82% support for medical marijuana statewide, but New York's medical marijuana patients continue to wait for the governor to show the leadership to allow them to have safe access to their medicine. Gov. Cuomo’s past opposition to allowing medical marijuana appears to have softened somewhat, but he still has not said he is supportive of this important reform.
Despite Cuomo's concerns, the Assembly passed A6357 June 3 in an overwhelming 99-41 vote. This medical marijuana bill is sponsored by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried. A companion bill, S4406, is sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino in the Senate. Please call leadership, including Sen. Skelos and Gov. Cuomo, to ask them to support medical marijuana patients this year.
In recent years, the “public view” exception to New York’s 1977 decriminalization law has been abused by police officers. New York City police have told tens of thousands of people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets — thus making them criminals once their marijuana was in public view. That might finally change this year, as the Assembly voted May 29 to approve a bill that would close this loophole and fix New York’s decriminalization law.
The vote was 80-59. A6716 will next be considered by the Senate. Please contact your senator today and urge him or her to support this sensible reform.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and several district attorneys all called for the state’s law to be fixed last year. Unfortunately, then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) stalled progress when he opposed the decrim fix in June, expressing an absurd concern that people could walk around with 10 joints in each ear.
Are you a patient?
If you are supportive and are a medical professional, a seriously ill patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, a law enforcement official, a clergy member, or a member of the legal community, or you know someone else that is, please email email@example.com to see how you can be of special help. Please include your address or nine-digit ZIP code.
New York’s weak "decrim" law
New York is one of the 13 states that penalize first-offense possession of a modest amount of marijuana with a fine instead of possible jail time (marijuana possession is legal in two other states and possession in one's home is allowed under Alaska's constitution). First-offense possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by a $100 civil citation, although first-offense possession of between 25 grams and two ounces carries a $500 fine and up to three months in jail.
As was mentioned earlier, law enforcement have been able to exploit a loophole in the decriminalization law by getting an arrestee to expose his or her marijuana as "open to public view," which converts the conduct into an arrestable offense. This has resulted in the second highest per capita marijuana arrest rate in the U.S., at almost 93,000 people per year. The Drug Policy Alliance and other allies have campaigned to fix this abuse, and in September 2011, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued a memo to police not to arrest people for possession that is not in public view. Unfortunately, arrests have continued. In June 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made worldwide headlines when he called for the closing of this much-abused loophole. You can learn more about New York by reading this report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D.
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