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Hakeem Jeffries Calls Marijuana Busts 'Classic Entrapment'

Assemblyman reintroduces bill that would close loophole resulting in 'open-air' arrests for small amounts of the drug.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Prospect Heights, recently reintroduced a bill that would help end what he called the unfair targeting of black and Latino young people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"The explosion of misdemeanor arrests in communities of color have needlessly scarred tens of thousands of lives and hurt the ability of many to secure employment, gain admission to college, obtain financial aid or live in public housing," Jeffries said in a statement released Wednesday.

The bill would close a loophole that allows police officers to compel people stopped during stop-and-frisk encounters to take marijuana out of their pockets into the 'open-air'—resulting in a misdemeanor charge for possession.

Instead, the bill would make possession of marijuana in amounts indicative of personal use a violation, punishable by a $100 fine.

In his at Pratt Institute earlier this year, Jeffries made passage of the bill a priority for the new legislative session.

In his remarks, Jeffries decried not only the legal code he sought to amend, but also what he called the New York Police Department's unequal enforcement of those laws, with blacks and Latinos on the receiving end of approximately 90 percent of all stop-and-frisks performed last year.

"Marijuana can't be criminal behavior for one group of people, and be socially acceptable for another," he said. 

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly vowed to end open-air marijuana arrests in a memo to officers last September. However, Jeffries said in his release sent this week that "the practice still continues."

David K March 01, 2012 at 07:46 PM
These laws started in 1937 with racist motivation and have NEVER been enforced in the same manner with all racial groups. These laws are more reminiscent of Jim Crow laws or of apartheid as practiced in South Africa as they doom those convicted to a second class citizen status. It is time for this form of racial prejudice to be recognized and to be removed from our culture.

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