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Area Pol: End Arrests for Small Amounts of Marijuana

Bill offered by Prospect Heights' Hakeem Jeffries would reduce penalty for public display of marijuana from arrest to a $100 fine.

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.”

MRRCK203@AOL.COM May 18, 2011 at 05:30 PM
YOU SHOULD LEGALIZE POSSESSION OF UP TO AN OUNCE FOR PRIVATE USE
Mandel Pettaway May 18, 2011 at 07:17 PM
I agree with that. The only reason marijuana isn't legalized is because the gov't hasn't figured out a way to control it to profit moreso than the everyday people on the streets. But gov't is supposed to be of the poeple, for the people, and by the people. And I don't smoke (job related). Legalize and I'll advertise.....
kim lewis May 18, 2011 at 08:54 PM
It's time to figure it all out, locking up people for small amounts, only cost tax payers. With the right process, it could be a win, win situation. What's holding things up?
Roy May 19, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Make it a $500 fine for possession in public. $1000 for second offense. Another words... If you want to get high... Stay at home.
Nick May 19, 2011 at 01:34 AM
It's very simple. Until the law is changed it needs to be enforced, regardless of who we think it benefits or not. The possession of Marijuana is a crime. It is for now. The punishment should fit the level of the crime based on the amount possessed by the offender. If it's a case of a fine then apply the fine, otherwise apply jail time. Generally the possession of a consumable amount is a misdemeanor that an offender pays a fine for. Then there is the quantity ladder of possession. Under two ounces, or two ounces and more. Why should less than two ounces be attached to only a fine. To possess up to two ounces is quite a bit of smoking. Lowering penalties and giving the offender a slap on the wrist is simply an inducement to buy more and keep on smoking more, thus keeping the supplier in business. What the general public also isn't aware of is that a Marijuana smoker, even though he may not be violent (maybe), he is just as dangerous behind the wheel of a car as a person driving under the influence of alcohol. Also comments made by some citizens that a cop is a lowly person is generally an indicator that they dispise cops. Most people don't respect the law, they fear the law. Try being a cop Mr./Mrs. Citizen, risking your life everyday for strangers. Are you up to the task? I bet not. It's not easy to fill that bill. After a few years on the police force a cop begins to realize that he's trying to help people who don't want to be helped.
april May 19, 2011 at 02:34 AM
The goverment was made for the people .To bad the people that can change these dumass laws wouldn,t vote .Then maybe we the people would be able to smoke what they want when they want , I dont understand why are gov. cant get this right I think if they do it right it cound be what save this country again !!!
Roy May 19, 2011 at 05:18 AM
These dumass laws are to protect us from dumass irresponsible people who threaten the safety of others. California voters voted not to legalize marijuana to save this STATE.
AspreyJandMaeri May 20, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I know...this is a very tough subject. But pot is an illegal drug. You're not supposed to have ANY on you. If you have it, you get arrested. It's cut and dried. It's not like if you drink a little bit and aren't legally drunk that the cops let you go. It's more like if you stole something and were caught. You didn't steal it a little bit. You just stole it. What they should do is legalize marijuana. It's far less hurtful than alcohol, which should be choked in a stranglehold. We don't use either, as we're model citizens and try to represent PH proudly. Be like us! :)
Tom Hillgardner August 17, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Finally, I am sick and tired of how our police want a medal for doing their jobs. "Risk their lives everyday." Gag me with a spoon. No one forced them to take this job. If they do not like the compensation package, then let them quit and find another career. The problem with most cops is that they are insecure and believe in blind loyalty to authority. Very few of them have had an original idea in their lives. Every time police corruption is exposed and I have to listen to the PBA and police commissioner talk about the "few bad apples", I want to scream. Its the other way around. Most cops are on a power trip and enjoy abusing their power; there only are a few good apples. I am very grateful for those few good apples.
Tom Hillgardner August 17, 2011 at 07:06 PM
You also state mistruths when you state that a "Marijuana smoker...is just as dangerous behind the wheel of a car as a person driving under the influence of alcohol." The most recent studies suggest that while young, inexperienced cannabis consumers who get behind the wheel of an automobile may be more prone to have an accident than someone who is stone, cold sober, older and more experienced cannabis consumers may be safer drivers than the general population. The conventional wisdom is that cannabis makes one more cautious and that this is a better state of mind in which to be driving. Persons under the influence of cannabis slow down and take extra care and it does not retard motor skills, and what small impairment it might make on reaction time is more than compensated for by the slower speed at which the cannabis consumer operates their vehicle.
Tom Hillgardner August 17, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Nick, you are saying many things that are downright false. It appears that you do not know what you are talking about. In New York, it is wrong to say that "possession of Marijuana is a crime." When the possession is of 25 grams or less and it is not burning or open to public view (such as when it is in your pocket and the cop directs the young, gullible teenager to empty their pockets), it is merely violation. It is not a crime. It has been that way in New York State since August 1977. Thus, your statement that "possession of a consumable amount is a misdemeanor that an offender pays a fine for" is also wrong. If by a consumable amount you mean all quantities of 25 grams or less, it is a violation for which a first time offender faces a maximum penalty of a $100 fine if found guilty. As a practical matter, many such summonses are dismissed because the DA does not have the wherewithal to prosecute such offenses. The lab tests and the cost of calling an expert witness at trial to confirm that the substance was cannabis would cost more than the maximum fine.

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