We have been watching the progress of a decriminalization bill in the state of New York for a few weeks now, ever since New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to save the state millions and to cut the arrest rates for small amounts of marijuana possession. Governor Cuomo’s plan would have eliminated what he said was, “unnecessary life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest”. It was to change the law so the stop-and-frisk practices of the New York City police department would end, to combat the racially disparate arrests rates in the city.
Having less than 25 grams of marijuana is already decriminalized in the state, but having it in public view is a criminal defense worthy of an arrest. Under the plan, police who routinely stop young men of color and ask them to empty their pockets would now only give a citation for showing the marijuana in public. The new legislation looked poised for victory with both New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly lending their support.
Now a Republican-controlled Senate says there are much higher priorities for them to tackle in the last few days of the legislative session, and that the bill is too broad to be passed in its current form. The Governor had set up a deadline for the Senate to pass his decriminalization bill as Monday at midnight. That was to comply with the state’s three day waiting period requirement in the State Constitution to allow the public and lawmakers to review the language of the legislation before it is voted on. This year’s legislative session ends on Thursday. The next session does not begin until January.
Legislative officials are predicting that no other major deals would be reached before lawmakers left the capital to go back to their districts and run their re-election campaigns. Republican Dean Skelos was asked about the chances of passing the marijuana decriminalization bill as he left the legislative chamber late last night, to which he replied, “We do not support decriminalization.”
Gabriel Sayegh, the director for the state’s chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance said that he can’t recall a crime bill that law enforcement backed, but the Senate and the conservative party still did not want to let pass.