Earlier this week, hopes were high that Governor Cuomo's push for the decriminalization of small amounts of pot in NYC would finally pass as part of the new state budget. But we were obviously expecting too much from Albany: after a week of closed door negotiations, lawmakers couldn't come to an agreement. "This is ugly. There's no other way to call this," said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's NY office. "It's ugly and it's embarrassing to be a New Yorker when they can't pass this one simple fix. They just kicked this can down the field before they go on vacation."
Governor Cuomo had been pushing for the change in the law, which would make possession of 15 grams "in open view" a violation, and answerable by a summons instead of a misdemeanor. But on Thursday, Cuomo announced that he had reached an agreement with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and joint state Senate leaders Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein on a state budget—but there was no mention of the marijuana decriminalization.
The proposed reforms “got caught in the horse trading and political posturing,” Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat, told the Times. He added that Senate Republicans offered to permit a vote on the marijuana reforms in exchange for increasing the number of bullets allowed in an ammunition magazine, from 7 to 10. “I think it’s unconscionable,” he said.
Now, lawmakers will go on a three-week vacation; there's still a chance the change can be made when they return, but as The Daily Chronic points out, "it is certainly delayed and possibly derailed without having the impetus of the budget agreement behind it."
“I am gravely disappointed that this budget failed to enact justice for the more than 44,000 individuals arrested last year based on a flawed law. Not only does allowing these arrests directly impact the lives of individuals and their communities, they are a gross misappropriation of city and state resources, and a waste of officer manpower that can be spent on more pressing law enforcement matters,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.
“This is an issue that cannot wait. Our tens of thousands of youth arrested annually under unfair practices shouldn’t have to wait,” said Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez. ”They deserve better—they deserve justice and equality. And they deserve it now. We need to end this policy that has plagued our communities for too long and make public view possession a violation.”
Possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in New York State in 1977 for 25 grams or less, as long as it's not in public view. But the NYPD, especially under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, has widely disregarded this law, and the department's stop-and-frisk policy has been instrumental in driving up the numbers of pot possession arrests. Despite that, even Bloomberg said he was in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of pot in NYC.