NY Sen Skelos is Against Pot Law Reform, Too Worried About People Carrying "10 Joints in Each Ear"

Following a storm of public criticism of illegal, racially biased marijuana arrests in New York City,  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly endorsed legislation to decriminalize marijuana "in public view" on Monday.  In New York City, almost 50,000 people are arrested annually for marijuana arrests, and almost 90 percent of them are Black or Latino. Research consistently reveals that many of those arrested did not actually possess pot 'in public view', but had some weed in their pockets or back packs (which is decriminalized) that police placed into public view -- an arrestable, more serious offense -- during similarly racially-biased stop-and-frisks.

But despite widespread support for the legislation, including from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissione Ray Kelly, whose policies are targeted by the proposal, New York Senator and Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) is speaking out against bipartisan plans to remove the 'in public view' loophole. He is worried that people with giant ears may carry massive amounts of weed behind them:

“Being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong,” Skelos told reporters. But for someone so  concerned with marijuana in public view, Skelos has not spoken out against the wide disparities in the law's enforcement. New York City accounts for about 50,000 of the 53,000 marijuana arrests annually, and white, suburban kids who hold weed in public seem to get away without any kind of charge.  

From the New York Times:

To that end, Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he was willing to work to address a recurring situation that civil rights groups say has led to tens of thousands of arrests in New York City: the police stop young people and ask them to empty their pockets, and those stopped pull out the marijuana they are carrying. Under current law, possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana is only a violation, but it becomes a misdemeanor if that marijuana is in public view. Civil rights groups say the police have been charging individuals with a misdemeanor even when marijuana comes into public view only as a result of a police stop.

“I think we can work on that,” said Skelos,“That is wrong. It should be a violation. You’re following the policeman’s order.” 

Even Cuomo’s spokesman, Josh Vlasto, scoffed at Senator Skelos' absurd statement. “Carrying 10 joints in each ear would require some set of ears,” he said. “We look forward to working these issues through with the Senate in order to end an injustice that has been allowed to go on for too long.”

So far, even Commissioner Kelly's internal memo ordering police to follow the law and only make valid 'in public view' marijuana arrests was ineffective. Until something is done to stop the illegal arrest crusade, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will be racially targeted and criminalized for something they didn't even do. 

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at June 6, 2012, 12:17pm