New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it a consistent goal of his in recent months to make the public display of small amounts of cannabis no longer an arrestable misdemeanor, but instead a ticketable infraction. The policy shift is primarily meant to deal with New York City’s stop-n-frisk policy, which has led to tens of thousands of arrests, mostly of minorities, for individuals bringing their cannabis into “public display”. Possession of up to an ounce is only a ticket in NYC, but the cops know that once they have an individual empty their pocket, the cannabis they have on them goes from a simple ticket to a misdemeanor, as it officially becomes “public display” once it’s out in the open, even though it was the officer who forced them to do so. An absurd policy that exists simply to ignore the city’s decrim of simple cannabis possession. Recent reports have found that the NYPD has spent over a million hours between 2002-2012 arresting people for cannabis possession.
Under Cuomo’s proposal, which has actually been integrated into the state’s budget currently being discussed, the public display of up to 25 grams of cannabis – just short of an ounce – would become nothing more than a ticket. This proposal has since been narrowed down, in all likelihood, to include only New York City, and not the rest of the state. However, with NYC being the problem, this would end tens of thousands of arrests. Gothamist, a popular New York news outlet, reported yesterday that the passage of this provision could happen as soon as this week. Elected officials are nearing the finish of their budget talks, and it sounds as if the decrim proposal will stand. Anything can happen, but the situation looks promising.
Last month New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out a policy shift which puts a stop to people needing to spend a night in jail for simple cannabis possession. This was seen as a step forward, but would have no where near the impact that actually decriminalizing public display will have.
Lawmakers have recently filed legislation in both the House and Senate to bring forth public display decrim, in case the budget talks fall through.