Legislation has been pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole exception in New York state’s marijuana law. Abuse of this provision has led to hundreds of thousands of needless marijuana arrests in recent years, primarily in New York City, despite the possession of the plant being decriminalized in the state since 1977.
Under current law, private possession of marijuana is punishable by nothing more than a simple citation and fine. By contrast, the possession of small amounts of marijuana in a manner that is “open to public view” is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. This loophole has often been used to continue arresting a disproportionate number of minorities, largely as a result of ‘stop and frisk’ policies. Promises from law enforcement in recent years to correct this abuse have not come to fruition.
Senate bill 482 seeks to address this loophole by striking the ‘open to public view’ language from the statute for instances involving the possession of 15 grams or less or marijuana. Assembly Bill 332 also seeks to amend state law by explicitly stating that a person may not be charged with possession ‘open to public view’ if he/she has been compelled to do so by a law enforcement officer.
New York had the highest marijuana-related arrest rate in the nation in 2013, largely because of arrests made under the ‘public view’ exception. Over 80 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic. In the first three months of 2016, New Yorkers saw a 30 percent rise in marijuana possession arrests.
Minor marijuana possession violators, many of them young, first-time offenders, do not deserve this punishment.
Enter your zip code below to contact your New York state elected officials and urge them to support this common sense measure.