Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries wants to reduce penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.
Currently those caught displaying 25 grams (seven-eighths of an ounce) or less of marijuana in public can be arrested on a misdemeanor, while those who have that amount in private are hit with a $100 fine.
Jeffries’ bill would get rid of the public/private distinction and simply give anyone with 25 grams or less of the drug a $100 fine.
Those polled on Classon Avenue today were uniformly in favor of the change.
“I would probably be for legalizing marijuana, so the law would be fine with me,” said Amy Herguth, a 37-year-old who was out with her daughter.
“That would be great,” said David Richardson, a 23-year-old sound engineer who lives in Crown Heights. “I’d rather be hit with a $100 fine than spend the weekend in central booking, or have a smudge on my record.”
“To me it makes a lot of sense,” he added. “I don’t know if you’ve ever met a stoner, but stoners are not violent people.”
Marijuana possession is the number one reason for arrests in New York City, making up 15 percent of all arrests. In 2010 more than 54,000 people were arrested for having small amounts of marijuana in New York State (with over 50,000 of those arrests in New York City), according to Jeffries.
Jeffries argues that ending arrests for small amounts of marijuana would save the state about $75 million a year based on an estimate by the Drug Policy Alliance found that each arrest for simple marijuana possession costs between $1,000 and $2,000.
He also argues that it would help cut down racial disparities connected to marijuana arrests.
A Queens College study has shown that New York City is one of the cities with the most racial disparities connected to arrests for small amounts of marijuana. And in New York State, nearly 84 percent of those arrested for simple marijuana possession are black and Latino, while studies show that whites use the drug at higher rates, according to Jeffries.
Last month, WNYC reported that many people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana possession have had the marijuana discovered through illegal searches.
“This legislation is an additional step toward a more equitable criminal justice system, Jeffries said in a press release, adding that during difficult economic times, “scarce law enforcement resources should be used in the most efficient manner possible.”