State Senate and Assembly lawmakers have introduced bi-partisan legislation, Senate Bill 5187 and Assembly Bill 7620, seeking to reduce marijuana penalties and arrest violations involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public [NY State Penal Law 221.10].
Under present law, non-public possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. However, in recent years, police — particularly in New York City — have misused Penal Law 221.10 to arrest defendants who would have otherwise faced no more than a civil citation.
For example, in 2010 New York City law enforcement spent $75 million arresting approximately 50,000 minor marijuana offenders under Penal Law 221.10. Yet according to an April investigation by New York City public radio station WNYC, police routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’
Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses.