Press Release

Senate Republicans Opposing Broadly-Supported Reforms to Marijuana Possession Law with Ludicrous Claims, Sabotaging Efforts by Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, District Attorneys, Community Groups to Bring Fairness and Clarity to Law

Reform Coalition Releases Two More Videos Highlighting Impact of Racially Biased, Costly, Unlawful Marijuana Arrests in NYC</p>

Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

Yesterday,  New York Republican Senate Majority Leader announced his opposition to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to standardize penalties for marijuana possession offenses in New York. The Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, told the New York Times that “Being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”

“The cartoonish response by Senator Skelos would perhaps be more humorous if the impact of the current marijuana possession policies were not so grim and racially disparate,” said gabriel sayegh, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

On Monday, New York Governor Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and all five New York City District Attorneys came out in support of ending the practice of arresting individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view. Today, Assembymember Hakeem Jeffries introduced Governor Cuomo’s reform legislation -- A. 10581 would standardize the penalty for marijuana possession offenses in order to create equitable police practices for marijuana possession and reduce racial disproportionality in these arrests. These marijuana arrest practices by police, the Governor and advocates believe, needlessly criminalizes young people – especially young people of color – and harms the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

“The Senate is blocking sensible reforms to the marijuana possession law with ludicrous claims,” said sayegh. “It’s time for the Senate to work with the governor, mayor and law enforcement from around the state to fix this long standing travesty.”

Below are two new videos released to highlight the racial disparate and unlawful marijuana possession arrest practices in New York.

  • Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito (East Harlem/Bronx) is the sponsor of NYC Council Resolution 986 that supports bi-partisan legislation in Albany, NY to put an end to tens of thousands of illegal, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests in New York.
  • James was stopped-and-frisked when entering his mother’s apartment building. One of the officers reached into James’ pocket without his consent and recovered marijuana. James refused to plead guilty for a crime he did not commit.  He was remanded and held on Riker’s Island for one week because he knew that personal possession of marijuana not in public view is not a criminal offense and refused to plead guilty.
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