NY Senate Republicans Kill Pot Decriminalization Bill, Allowing Unjust, Racist Arrests to Continue

Last night, Senate Republicans effectively killed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill to decriminalize marijuana in the public view. The reform would have reduced the consequence of an illegal pot bust for hundreds of thousands of young, Black and Latino New Yorkers.The Village Voice reports:

This year's legislative session is set to come to an end Thursday, and a proposal laid out by Governor Andrew Cuomo that would decriminalize the "public view" loophole in New York's marijuana possession law appears to be dead in the water.

The governor set a deadline of last night for he and legislative leaders to reach an agreement on any legislation they wanted passed during this session. It's Tuesday, and no announcement of a deal on "public view" marijuana possession has been announced.

Possession of pot in one’s home or pocket has not been a crime in New York state for more than 30 years. Nonetheless, the “in public view” loophole allows officers to arrest and charge individuals with a misdemeanor crime.  This year alone, the NYPD arrested roughly 50,000individuals -- 87% of whom are Black or Latino men -- for having pot in public view.

Research reveals that many arrestees were actually innocent. During the racial profiling tactic stop-and-frisk, police often (unconstitutionally) reach their hands into backpacks and pockets.  When they demand suspects empty their pockets or find the  weed themselves, cops often slam them  with an unjust ‘in public view’ arrest.

Governor Cuomo’s bill to decriminalize pot in public targeted these NYPD’s abuses, and enjoyed support from many activist groups.  District Attorneys from all five New York counties, and even NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly called it “a balanced approach.”

But Senate Republicans either missed the memo completely, or are blatantly ignoring the widespread public support for decriminalization by killing this bill.  Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito slammedthe Republicans’ idiotic move:

The New York Senate Republicans are doing what Republicans do best at the federal and local level—they are obstructing progress and paralyzing government. The Republican Conference in the State Senate is completely out of touch with our communities of color in New York City and because of their inaction, tens of thousands more of our young people of color will be arrested before the end of this year, saddling them with a criminal record.

The bill would have spared hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers from the consequences of a pot arrest, which include loss of access to student loans and federal housing. But As journalist Natasha Lennard explained, decriminalization is not a silver bullet, and carries its own set of harsh consequences.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne and Angela Lee

Posted at June 19, 2012, 11:55am

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