New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will ask the state legislature on Monday to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view, according to The New York Times. The change would dramatically reduce the number of people who could be arrested for possession of marijuana as a result of police stops, the newspaper notes.
Proponents of the change point to the arrest of tens of thousands of young black and Latino men who are stopped by police for other reasons, but are charged with a crime after they are instructed to empty their pockets, and marijuana is found. These young men have difficulty finding employment after they have become part of the criminal justice system, advocates say.
“For individuals who have any kind of a record, even a minuscule one, the obstacles are enormous to employment and to education,” Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper. “When it’s really a huge number of kids in the community who go through this, and all have the same story, the impact is just devastating.”
In September, New York City Police Commission Raymond Kelly instructed officers not to arrest people who take small amounts of marijuana out of their pockets or bags after they are stopped by police. In December, the police department announced arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana dropped 13 percent in New York City after the policy was changed.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes ending arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana. He has argued the arrests reduce more serious crime by discouraging drug dealing and violence that often is part of the drug trade.
Connecticut and California are among the more than one dozen states that have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.