New York pot decriminalization goes up in smoke

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 10:23 EDT
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New York police officers arrest an unidentified woman at an "Occupy Wall Street" protest on April 16, 2012. Photo: Daryl Lang / Shutterstock.com.
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A bill supported by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) that would have decriminalized possessing small quantities of marijuana will not pass during this legislative session due to staunch opposition from Republicans in the state Senate.

The current legislative session ends Thursday, and lawmakers are not due to return until January. The law requires a three day waiting period before bills can become law, meaning an agreement would have had to be reached by Monday night for decriminalization to have a chance.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Cuomo admitted that the bill seemed unlikely to pass, saying that it would “take more time to explain.”

His reasoning for reducing marijuana penalties comes after thousands have joined street protests targeting the law’s current misapplication across ethnic groups.

According to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union, New York police officers conducted nearly 685,724 stop-and-frisk searches just last year: a 600 percent increase since NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg first took office. Eighty-eight percent of the people stopped in those incidents were found totally innocent; eighty-seven percent of those stopped were black or Latino.

The bill was supported by police and prosecutors, and the mayor said it would help free up officers to focus on more serious crime while simultaneously saving the city money on law enforcement and boosting revenues through increased financial penalties for people caught with marijuana.

Photo: Daryl Lang / Shutterstock.com.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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