Sen. Squadron rallying to change marijuana laws and reduce the number of stop-and-frisks in New York City.
June 12, 2012As the Assembly considers legislation that would decriminalize the public possession of small amounts of marijuana (A.10581), advocates from VOCAL-NY, the Drug Policy Alliance and Color of Change descended on the Capitol today to call on Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, to bring similar legislation to a vote in the upper house.
With a contingency of roughly 100 protestors, speakers raised their voices to argue on behalf of the law proposed by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, and supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Kassandra Frederique, policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "Everyday, our young people are being harassed on the streets because of how they look."
The new legislation is designed to rectify, according to the governor, an "incongruous" application of the law which stipulates that private possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana is only a violation. Public possession is a misdemeanor.
However, arrests for the more serious offense of public possession are happening due to the misapplication of the law by police officers who, after asking suspects to turn out their pockets during routine stop-and-frisks, claim they are breaking the public possession law.
New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order, last year, in an attempt to stop officers from charging suspects with the stricter misdemeanor penalty if the suspects are simply obeying police orders. The AP reported that the number of low level marijuana arrests in the City dropped following the Sept. 19 order.
Advocates are especially concerned about the racial disparity in the application of the law. As one poster proclaimed, "whites smoke more marijuana – 85 percent of those arrested are black or Latino."
According to Jeffries, at a press conference last week, whites smoke, on average, as much or more marijuana than blacks or Latinos yet make up a mere 15 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, appealing to the tax payer's pocket book, advocates allege marijuana possession arrests are costing New York City $9,000 an hour, $210,000 a day, $1,500,000 a week, $6 million a month and $75 million a year.
Skelos has said he will not bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
However, according to Senator Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens, "If the bill goes to the floor, it will pass