Bill S3315-2013

Relates to standardizing penalties associated with marihuana possession

Relates to standardizing penalties associated with marihuana possession; makes unlawful possession of small amounts of marihuana a violation punishable by a fine.

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  • Jan 8, 2014: REFERRED TO ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE
  • Apr 24, 2013: COMMITTEE DISCHARGED AND COMMITTED TO RULES
  • Mar 18, 2013: NOTICE OF COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION - REQUESTED
  • Jan 31, 2013: REFERRED TO ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S3315

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to standardize penalties associated with marihuana possession

PURPOSE: To standardize criminal penalties for unlawful possession of marihuana.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: This bill amends sections 221.05 and 221.10 of the penal law to standardize penalties for unlawful possession of marihuana.

JUSTIFICATION: In 1977, the Legislature made possession of small amounts of marihuana a violation punishable by a fine, while possession in public view was made a misdemeanor. The intent behind the law was clear. Chapter 360 of the Laws of 1977 reads: "The legislature finds that arrests, criminal prosecutions and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime."

According to data from the Division of Criminal Justice Services, in 2010, a total of 54,813 people were arrested for this offense in New York - and fully 50,383 of these arrests took place in New York City. One out of every seven arrests in New York City is for marijuana possession, comprising 15 percent of all arrests in that city. From 1977 -1994, few people were arrested for 221.10. But from 1997 to 2010, the New Yolk City Police Department arrested and jailed more than 525,000 people for this offense. Those arrested were charged with the lowest level criminal offense - a misdemeanor-- and nearly every person was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car or van, and taken to the local police station, where they were photographed, fingerprinted, and then held, often for 24 hours or longer, in one of city's jails.

Numerous studies and media stories demonstrate that many of those arrested for marijuana in public view were improperly charged - they possessed small amounts of marijuana in their pocket or bag, and thus were subject to a violation and fine. Instead, they were arrested and charged with possessing marijuana in public view, often after following a police officer instruction to remove the marihuana from their pocket or bag.{1}

Many of these arrests are the result a stop-and-frisk encounter and contribute to stark racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In 2009, for example, the NYPD stopped 574,304 individuals. Of those who were the subject of a police stop that year, nearly ninety percent were people of color; and nine of every ten persons stopped were released without any further legal action taken against them. Of the 50,383 people arrested in New York City for marijuana possession in public view, nearly eighty six percent were black and Latino, and nearly seventy percent were between the ages of 16 - 29 even though U.S. Government surveys of high school seniors show that whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks and Latinos.{2}

These arrests are extremely costly. According to research by Queens College professor Dr. Harry Levine, the cost of each arrest is between $1,000 and 52,000 - thus New York City spent between $50 - $100 million on marijuana possession arrests in 2010 alone.

In a March 2011 New York City Public Safety Committee hearing, New York City council Member Melissa Mark Viverito asked NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly about these arrests likely resulting from improper searchers or mischarging practices. The Commissioner replied, "If you think the law is not written correctly, then you should petition the state Legislature to change it."

A legislative remedy is needed to standardize penalties associated with marijuana possession, in order to end the existing practices which "needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime."

This legislation will make unlawful possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation punishable by a fine.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New Bill.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Harry. Levine and Deborah Peterson Small, Marijuana Arrest Crusade. Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York Gay, 1997 -2007, (New York: New York Civil Liberties union, 2008)

(2) U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Office of Applied Studies. Table 1.34a marijuana use in lifetime, past year, and past month among persons aged 12 to 17, by demographic characteristics. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002 and 2003


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 3315 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 31, 2013 ___________
Introduced by Sens. HASSELL-THOMPSON, ADAMS, AVELLA, DILAN, GIANARIS, KRUEGER, MONTGOMERY, PARKER, PERKINS, RIVERA, SERRANO, SQUADRON, STAVISKY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse AN ACT to amend the penal law, in relation to standardize penalties associated with marihuana possession THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The opening paragraph of section 221.05 of the penal law, as added by chapter 360 of the laws of 1977, is amended to read as follows: A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marihuana when he OR SHE knowingly and unlawfully possesses marihuana. S 2. Section 221.10 of the penal law, as amended by chapter 265 of the laws of 1979 and subdivision 2 as amended by chapter 75 of the laws of 1995, is amended to read as follows: S 221.10 Criminal possession of marihuana in the fifth degree. A person is guilty of criminal possession of marihuana in the fifth degree when he OR SHE knowingly and unlawfully possesses[: 1. marihuana in a public place, as defined in section 240.00 of this chapter, and such marihuana is burning or open to public view; or 2.] one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing marihuana and the preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of more than twenty-five grams. Criminal possession of marihuana in the fifth degree is a class B misdemeanor. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.

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