NY Senate Drops the Ball on “Stop and Frisk” Law

By Dirk Hanson 07/06/11

Is that pot “in public view?” It will be, as soon as police wrestle it out of your pocket.

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Minorities take the rap.
Photo via blackamericans

The NYPD spends $75 million per year arresting minorities for small amounts of marijuana, even though since 1977 a ticket or a small fine has been the norm if you happen to carry 7/8 of an ounce of marijuana for personal use. 90% of those arrested in small-time pot busts are black or Latino. And if police frisk you, and lay a couple of grams of weed on the hood of your car, it’s now in full view, and you’re guilty of a major misdemeanor. "In 2010 in New York State, there were 54,000 marijuana arrests… 50,000 of them came from New York City, and—surprise, surprise—from neighborhoods that primarily are black, Latino and low income," Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in our recent report on these staggeringly disproportionate statistics. And if your weed is judged to be “in public view,” that misdemeanor can result in arrest, fines, and even a three-month prison sentence, says Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Senator Mark Grisanti, a conservative Republican State Senator from Buffalo, introduced a bill with Democratic Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries that would have evened out the penalties for public and private possession of small amounts of pot. By treating both as simple violations, the rationale for “stop and frisk” in marijuana cases would fade away.  The bill, S. 5187/A. 7620, died in the New York Senate in the final weeks of the session. Sayegh said: “The fact that Albany leadership was discussing a possible deal for reform is a major step forward, and one that will help our cause in the next legislative cycle.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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