In the New York State assembly, a bipartisan team of legislators have introduced a bill to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession found in public view. From the Times Union:
In a rare show of bipartisanship and upstate-downstate agreement, freshman state Sen. Mark Grisanti is co-sponsoring a bill with Democratic Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries to reduce from a misdemeanor to a violation public possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The co-sponsors say many people, especially minorities in New York City, end up getting arrested for small amounts if they are stopped by a police officer and told to empty their pockets — at which point the possession becomes public.
The move is in response to increasing media scrutiny over the horrific way New York City has been enforcing “public possession” marijuana laws. The enforcement has been extremely racially biased, with almost all those arrest being black or Latino. Even worse, reporting by WNYC showed how the NYPD has been tricking people into showing their marijuana, violating people’s civil rights with illegal searches, and lying in official reports to claim the marijuana they found hidden on a person was in “public view,” so it would carry a higher penalty.
Having bipartisan support is often very beneficial for helping any drug reform bill eventually become law, but this bill still has a long way to go.
On an activist level, the Drug Policy Alliance, along with others, should be commended for helping to raise the profile of the serious injustice taking place in NYC to the point that it has politicians beginning to take action.