NY Governor Seeks to Cut Pot Arrests
Andrew Cuomo wants to downgrade possession charges that many think unfairly target minorities and the young.
NYC pot smokers are rejoicing at a proposal from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to limit pot arrests. The plans call for reducing public possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a non-criminal offense, directly addressing the skyrocket in misdemeanor marijuana arrests throughout the city in recent years—from 2,000 a year in 1990 to over 50,000 annually in 2010 and 2011. First-time offenders with less than 25 grams of marijuana on their person are currently supposed to be issued a non-criminal violation ticket—similar to a traffic ticket—while those observed to be openly displaying a small amount of the drug are usually arrested on misdemeanor criminal charges. However, critics say the NYPD's current stop and frisk program is discriminatory, with minority residents routinely arrested and charged after small amounts of the drug turn up in their pockets. Those charges inevitably turn up during criminal background checks and often make it difficult for the arrested individuals to land housing or a job. "This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people," says Cuomo. "They wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation. The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job." New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly have both expressed support for the plan.