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."