Support for Cuomo’s Pot Legislation Remains Divided

Monday, June 11, 2012

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries are present as Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. (Office of the Governor)

The Democratically controlled state Assembly is expected to take up a version of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana this week. But on the Senate side of the Legislature, Majority Leader Dean Skelos has indicated he does not support decriminalization.

According to a source with knowledge of the issue, Senate Republicans were contacted by the Governor’s office about changing the law on marijuana possession. The conference said it was willing to look at legislation that would keep people found with small amounts of marijuana during a routine frisk from being subject to jail time.

This, according to the source, was prior to Cuomo’s press conference on the legislation earlier this week. The Senate Republican majority, after conferencing on the issue, is dead-set against passing any form of decriminalization, the individual said.

Earlier reports had suggested that members in the Senate differed on what exactly a small amount of marijuana really means.

Governor Cuomo's bill has the amount at 25 grams. In other words, New Yorkers would be able to walk around the city displaying up to 25 grams of pot.  That's about 25 joints worth. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos suggested last week he thought that quantity was too high to decriminalize. 

However the quantity of 25 grams was borrowed directly from the law passed in 1977, when Albany first decriminalized non-public possession of small amounts of pot.

Lobbyists who worked to pass the 1977 law said the intent back then was to separate the marijuana users from the dealers.  Therefore, the legislators had to pick a threshold amount that would let most private pot smokers off the hook.  They gravitated to the ounce as the threshold limit that separated marijuana consumers from sellers. 

According to drug policy historians, back in the 1970s, people in New York tended to buy marijuana in larger quantities than they do now.  They had to stock up because marijuana was harder to procure, since there were more raids on dealers before private possession was decriminalized.  As a result, buying marijuana an ounce at a time — or 28 grams — was common. That unit was called "a lid," and it's about enough weed to fill an entire ziplock sandwich bag to the brim. 

During the 1970s, a lid cost between $30 to $60.  The same quantity would run between $330 to $600 today. 

Keith Stroup, a marijuana legalization advocate who was one of the leading lobbyists working to pass the 1977 law, said even then some legislators felt an ounce was too much to decriminalize.  

"They kept lowering the amount, and obviously in the end, the compromise that was made was ‘let's make it a little less than an ounce,’" Stroup explained. 

So Albany agreed on 25 grams. 

Stroup, who founded NORML, a group that supports marijuana legalization, said any legislator who thinks decriminalizing 25 grams of pot will allow pot sellers to deal in the open just doesn't get it.

"That's just crazy.  Dealers deal in pounds and kilos.  They don't deal in grams," he said.  "Can you imagine?  A dealer, even if he sold it in the smallest unit it's ever sold — like an eighth (of an ounce) — he'd have eight customers, and he'd be out of business."


More in:

Comments [8]

Matthew Swaye from Harlem

Getting ready for this march. We've been marching everyday since Oct. 21st on this thing and it will be nice to have the whole city together - all the boroughs. Together, we will now prop up Ray Kelly and display him. oink Bloomberg. We'll try them both at the Hague.

I'm stopping Stop & Frisk, a Jim Crow 2012 policy that we won't tolerate.

Youtube: "Outside While Black"

Jun. 15 2012 11:13 PM
Racist Policy

“The drug war had little to do with drug crime and nearly everything to do with racial politics. The drug war was part of the Republican Party’s grand strategy of using racially coded political appeals on issues of crime and welfare to appeal to poor and working class whites who were resentful of the Civil Rights Movement – especially busing, desegregation and affirmative action. Pollsters and political strategists found that by using racially coded ‘get tough’ appeals they could get poor and working class white voters to defect from the Democratic Party. In the words of H. R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s former chief of staff: ‘The whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.’ Nixon coined the term ‘war on drugs.’ And Reagan turned the rhetorical war into a literal war on the black community”. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010), Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, second chapter, titled “Lockdown”

Jun. 12 2012 09:40 AM
Despot from Protect the Cronies

Prohibition succeeds in protecting the following groups from hemp's competition:
Oil Industry - Rockefellers;
DuPont: oil, plastics, paper pulping;
Hearst - Wood Pulp Paper
cotton industry,
providers of insecticides & fertilizers for cotton
alcohol industry
drug industry

1937: The year the federal government outlawed Hemp or cannabis:

-- DuPont patents petrochemical manufacturing processes for making plastics, as well as pollution-heavy sulfate/sulfite processes for producing wood pulp. For the next 50 years, these processes are responsible for 80% of DuPont's industrial output.

--In its 1937 Annual Report, DuPont informs stockholders that the company anticipates radical changes from the revenue raising power of government... converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization.

Hemp proponents:
Henry Ford - Planned to run cars on Hemp Deisel Oil, Built rugged body parts of Hemp fibre reinforced hemp plastic
American Medical Association

Jun. 12 2012 08:59 AM

th_hme repeats the false propaganda so commonly spouted, and it is just so ridiculous! Like the gateway argument, and association with crime, when you could make the same association with mothers milk, or breathing air before you began your criminal history. Dude, marijuana is literally the "medicine" plant, and co-evolved with mammals and humans. The active molecules are identical to the molecules the human body makes and needs. That is why it works. That is why it does no harm and you cannot overdose. Marijuana was first cultivated over 6000 years ago for food, medicine,fiber and fuel, before corn or tomatoes.

Pot is a NORMAL part of the human experience. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were pot farmers who traded seedlings. Do you think they handled all that pot without feeling the psychological effects?

Dude, Marijuana is NOT drugs in general! That association is law enforcement propaganda. Using marijuana as a teenager does NOT ruin your life unless law enforcement ruins it for you. Each of the last 3 Presidents and many Senators etc all smoked pot as teenagers...why don't you make THAT association? Because you are a fool of law enforcement budget fearmongers seeking to keep their money rolling in!!!

Jun. 11 2012 03:42 PM
USMJP from Vermont

Pretty Little Press Release:

political candidate
Cris Ericson is on the official
election ballot in Vermont
Nov. 6, 2012
running against current
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

United States Marijuana Party
in Vermont

Cris Ericson is hoping that
people will start
SuperPACs to promote her

She is also seeking Pro Bono
legal assistance to understand
complex state and federal
campaign finance laws.

Cris Ericson
879 Church Street
Chester, Vermont 05143-9375

United States Marijuana Party
political campaign
to elect Cris Ericson
in Vermont is an entirely
separate legal entity
from the U.S. Marijuana
Party nationwide at

Jun. 11 2012 03:20 PM
Liberty from Brooklyn

If you are against abortion, don't have one. If you are against gay marriage, don't get "gay married." And if you are against smoking weed, then by all means, don't smoke it. Now let me do as I please as long as I'm not hurting anyone. If I'm not blowing my smoke in your face, I really don't see how this concerns you at all.

Jun. 11 2012 03:07 PM

Definitely agree with this, not because it is okay to consume marijuana, but because it is stupid to send young people to jail for possession of it. Instead, for young people the government should be putting them into a program that teaches them about the devastating effects this drug has on the communities in the countries from which it comes or to their local communities for becoming accepting of drug dealing. Although they may argue that marijuana is not that "bad", I would think it is safe to say that in cities, it opens the doors for other very harmful drugs. No need to send them to jail, it will only make it harder for them to get out of the whole of poverty and success-ambission-lacking environments.

Jun. 11 2012 08:40 AM
Jillian Galloway from local

How could the current marijuana laws be protecting people when people are regularly encountered in possession of marijuana? Wouldn't that imply that the prohibition DOESN'T prevent people from getting marijuana and therefore DOESN'T protect people?

Finding people so frequently in possession of marijuana is proof of how much the seventy-year-old prohibition fails! Taxpayers spend $40 Billion-a-year keeping marijuana illegal and the only reason we pay this money is to make people safer - but it doesn't. It doesn't stop people getting marijuana and it doesn't make people safer and it doesn't return ANYTHING of value back to the taxpayers who fund it! Are we all so rich that this isn't a big deal?

Jun. 11 2012 03:08 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by