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New Bill Would Decriminalize Some Cases of Marijuana Possession

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State legislators have introduced a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. The bill comes on the heels of a WNYC investigation about alleged illegal searches during marijuana arrests.

The new bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn and State Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, wouldn't legalize marijuana possession -- but instead of being arrested for smoking or displaying marijuana in public view, a person would receive a ticket and a fine. Currently, possessing a small amount of marijuana isn't a crime unless you're smoking or carrying it in public view.

The rationale for the new law is that it might slow the skyrocketing marijuana arrests rates that disproportionately hit the city's black and Latino neighborhoods.  

WNYC reported last month that New York City police officers may be recovering marijuana from people by illegally searching them during stop-and-frisks.  More than a dozen people who were arrested for marijuana possession told WNYC their marijuana was hidden in their clothes until the police took it out and brought it into public view. Each of them were approached in the city's most heavily black and Latino neighborhoods, where most stop-and-frisks take place.

Lupe Todd, a spokesperson for Jeffries, said the introduction of the new bill was motivated in part by the recent WNYC investigation.

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