May 30, 2013
By Neal Tepel
Albany, N.Y. – To address the controversial and often biased stop-and-frisk policies in New York State, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined with co-sponsor Assemblyman Karim Camara, to announce the passage of legislation that would reduce the penalty for possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana in public view from a class B misdemeanor to a violation.
The bill would ensure that all those who are charged with possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less are penalized in an impartial and consistent manner (A.6716-A).
“Applying a misdemeanor charge for possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana according to the current law diverts law enforcement efforts and millions of dollars in taxpayer money away from serious crimes,” Silver said. “The law also unfairly targets young people, especially Black and Hispanic youth. This misdemeanor-level conviction can be a permanent stain on the future of these young men and women, impeding career and educational opportunities and essentially placing this vulnerable group of people at the fringes of society. Our youth should be able to learn from their mistakes, rather than fail because of them. The passage of this legislation is a positive step forward in ensuring that reasonable, fair penalties apply to those charged with smaller-quantity marijuana possession.”
Current law makes possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana possessed in a “public place” and “open to public view” a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months imprisonment. However, the non-public possession of the same amount is punishable only by a fine. This small distinction between public and non-public possession has facilitated a floodgate of rash and unreasonable arrests and charges. In some jurisdictions, police officers request or demand that individuals encountered on the street empty their pockets or purse; this action by law enforcement sometimes forces exposure of small-quantities of marijuana into “public view,” thereby resulting in arrest and heightened criminal penalties.