Update: The 2017 legislative session came to a close with lawmakers taking no further action on SB 482 and AB 332.
Update: SB 482 and AB 332 have both been referred to committees.
Legislation has been filed for the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole exception in New York state’s marijuana law. Abuse of this provision has led to hundreds of thousands of needless marijuana arrests in recent years, primarily in New York City, despite the possession of the plant being decriminalized in the state since 1977.
Under current law, private possession of marijuana is punishable by nothing more than a simple citation and fine. By contrast, the possession of small amounts of marijuana in a manner that is “open to public view” is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. This loophole has often been used to continue arresting a disproportionate number of minorities, largely as a result of ‘stop and frisk’ policies. Promises from law enforcement in recent years to correct this abuse have not come to fruition.
Senate bill 482
seeks to address this loophole by striking the ‘open to public view’ language from the statute for instances involving the possession of 15 grams or less or marijuana. Assembly Bill 332
also seeks to amend state law by explicitly stating that a person may not be charged with possession ‘open to public view’ if he/she has been compelled to do so by a law enforcement officer.
New York had the highest
marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation in 2013, largely because of arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception. Over 80 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic. Between 2015 and 2016, marijuana possession arrests in New York City rose ten percent. Ninety-six percent
of those arrested were charged under the public view provision. Eight-five percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.
Minor marijuana possession violators, many of them young, first-time offenders, do not deserve this punishment.
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