New York may become the third state to legalize weed.
The Huffington Post reports that New York Democratic Senator Liz Krueger revealed a proposal to fully legalize and tax weed earlier today.
Krueger condemned marijuana prohibition as a “policy that just hasn’t worked” at a press conference in City Hall.
“The illegal marijuana economy is alive and well,” she said, “and our unjust laws are branding nonviolent New Yorkers, especially young adults, as criminals, creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives and needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars.”
The bill is New York’s third attempt this year to get the ball rolling for legal weed. Proposals to legalize weed for seriously ill patients and plug a loophole in the state’s ancient marijuana decriminalization law both passed New York’s state Assembly earlier this year, but the Senate adjourned in June without following through on either act.
Pot advocates hope this new bill will have better luck, but admit that the state’s failure to adopt even the most modest proposals doesn’t make its chances any better.
“It’s unlikely that this bill is passing this year,” said Gabriel Sayegh, the New York director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for the legalization of all drugs.
Still, he said, “it is an important contribution to the discussion that we should be having about our broken marijuana policies in New York.”
More people are arrested for marijuana possession than for any other offense in New York. Krueger highlighted at the press conference that the majority of the people caught with weed are black and Latino, yet many studies have shown that marijuana is actually more commonly used by whites.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has little if any desire to legalize weed, even for medical use.
A New York law created in 1977 states that possession of a small amount of weed is an offense on par with jaywalking. But if you’re caught holding or smoking weed in public, you can be punished with up to three months in jail and a $500 fine.
This is the law most responsible for the 600,000 people who have been arrested for marijuana possession in New York since 1997. Most of the young black and Latino men charged with this offense, however, only bring weed into public view after police ask them to empty their pockets. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sought to put an end to this practice last year, but pot advocates insist that more reforms are needed.
“We’re spending taxpayer money to ruin lives, disproportionately for those from communities of color, with no real public policy goal to be found in any of it,” Krueger said.