New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to compromise with state senators who oppose his plan to decriminalize open possession of small amounts of marijuana, The Wall Street Journal reports. The compromise could significantly scale back the plan, the article notes.
Under the governor’s proposal, it would be considered a violation to openly possess 25 grams, or seven-eighths of an ounce, or less of marijuana. Violations usually involve a summons, which carry a fine and court date. Smoking marijuana in public would still be considered a misdemeanor.
Alternate proposals under discussion include one that would classify walking around with small amounts of marijuana as a violation, instead of a crime, as long as the drug is stored in a sealed container. Lawmakers are also considering creating special zones, such as near schools or inside subway cars, in which displaying even a small amount of marijuana would remain a crime.
Proponents of the governor’s original proposal 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.
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.
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