Divide in Albany Kills Proposal on Marijuana
I pledge to call out and identify the dry lawmakers that continue to spread lies and halt the progress of the cannabis movement. -UA
ALBANY — The Democrats who control the State Assembly, many of them black or Latino residents of New York City, saw a proposal to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana as a simple matter of justice: too many black and Latino men were being arrested because, after being stopped by the police, they were forced to empty their pockets.
But the Republicans who run the State Senate, all of them white and most of them from suburban or rural districts, saw decriminalization differently: as an invitation for young people to use drugs and as a declaration that Albany was soft on crime.
“Marijuana still is a gateway drug to so many other much more dangerous things,” said Senator John J. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican.
The differing life experiences, and worldviews, of lawmakers in the two chambers proved too much to overcome in the final days of this legislative session, and on Tuesday, Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo declared his marijuana proposal dead.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said: “You have old folks like me who say, ‘Whoa, the decriminalization of marijuana: What are you saying? Everyone is going to walk around smoking marijuana, and that’s O.K.?’ So I think the Senate got a lot of blowback, pardon the pun.”
The demise of the proposal came amid a last-minute push to tie up loose ends before the close of the session, which is scheduled to conclude on Thursday. All legislative seats are on the ballot in the elections this year, and Republican senators have pointedly refused to take up several issues that are avidly sought by Democrats in the Assembly but that might upset conservatives, including the marijuana bill and a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage.
Mr. Cuomo unveiled his marijuana proposal two weeks ago, promoting it as a way to end the high number of arrests that result from the stop-and-frisk practice of the New York Police Department. He immediately won the backing of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as well as the department and prosecutors.
With the support of law enforcement, some Democrats and drug-policy advocates said they did not expect the Republican-controlled Senate to stand in the way.
“You have the governor of the state, the speaker of the Assembly, the mayor of the city, the police commissioner, all five D.A.’s from the city,” said Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College who has studied the city’s marijuana arrest practices. “It seemed like if this many powerful people said they wanted X, which wasn’t that big a deal, it should be possible to do it.”
But the collapse of the marijuana proposal illustrated an at-times awkward reality about the balance of power in Albany: Legislation eagerly sought by New York City can easily be torpedoed by lawmakers from upstate, even when the legislation largely affects only residents of the city.
The marijuana measure would have had an impact mostly on city residents because, of the more than 50,000 low-level marijuana arrests in New York State last year, 9 in 10 occurred in the city, according to state data.
In private discussions about the marijuana bill, Senate Republicans raised concerns about the amount of marijuana that Mr. Cuomo’s bill would have allowed people to possess in public without being charged with a misdemeanor — 25 grams. By one calculation, that would produce 63 marijuana cigarettes — one for each member of the Senate next year, as a Republican senator joked at a discussion of the proposal.
The Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said Tuesday that it was possible the Senate would revisit the marijuana issue next year, and he denied that he felt political pressure to block the bill.
“All I know is my son was thrilled to see me on ‘The Daily Show,’ ” Mr. Skelos said, referring to a television segment that lampooned his resistance to the measure.
But supporters of the marijuana proposal were not pleased. Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs, a Democrat who represents Flatbush, Brooklyn, said Republicans were blinded by ideology and ignoring the likelihood that their own constituents used marijuana. “Their posture and the way they are perceived is to be very law and order,” she said. “Everybody who’s got a college kid probably is turning a blind eye to the fact that kids are experimenting.”
Mr. Cuomo, who has at times been accused of not paying enough attention to the concerns of black and Latino lawmakers, won widespread applause for tackling the marijuana issue and, in doing so, giving more public attention to the growing criticism of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
But Assemblywoman Inez D. Barron, a Democrat representing East New York and parts of Canarsie and Brownsville in Brooklyn, said the governor had not pushed the issue vigorously enough in the past two weeks.
“It’s not a critical issue to him, but it is for our communities, and we understand it,” Ms. Barron said. “I believe that he’s playing a game of trying to enhance his political stature by not pushing the Republicans. He doesn’t want to expend a political favor by asking them to really come forth and support this bill.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo argued that his marijuana bill was the kind of proposal, like same-sex marriage, that would take time to persuade lawmakers to support.
“Many of the large issues, social issues, they don’t happen over a period of weeks,” he said. “It takes a period of months, sometimes a period of years.”
New York governor in bid to decriminalize small-quantity marijuana possession
ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ask state lawmakers Monday to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cannabis, according to The New York Times, in a bid to save young men from minorities who find themselves charged with a crime after being stopped and frisked.
Lawmakers representing minority neighborhoods in New York City urged the Democratic governor to take action, arguing that such young men are forced into the justice system unnecessarily and find their future job prospects hampered.
The governor inserting himself into the debate would be controversial and follows a dispute over hailing livery cabs from the street and fingerprinting of food stamp applicants. On the stop-and-frisk issue, Cuomo would find himself at odds with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
His expected push follows a directive last September from police chief Raymond Kelly for officers to overlook such drug discoveries -- which resulted in only a small decrease in such charges.
Many such discoveries are made as youths are stopped and searched for other reasons -- but the drug find means they get a criminal record.
"For individuals who have any kind of a record, even a minuscule one, the obstacles are enormous to employment and to education," New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said.
"When it's really a huge number of kids in the community who go through this, and all have the same story, the impact is just devastating."
A Queens College investigation found there were 50,684 arrests in 2011 for small quality marijuana possession -- more than for any other offense and one seventh of all arrests.
"This proposal will bring long overdue consistency and fairness to New York State's Penal Law and save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest and, in some cases, prosecution," a Cuomo administration official told the Times in an email.
Marijuana arrests fall in New York after rule change
(Reuters) - Arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession have fallen 13 percent in New York City since September, when the police department relaxed its enforcement policy, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.
New York City police made 1,190 fewer marijuana arrests since Commissioner Raymond Kelly's September 19 directive, compared to the same nine-week period a year ago, spokesman Paul Browne said.
A coalition of groups that has criticized the police force for its aggressive approach to marijuana possession called the numbers a "disappointing drop" and said New York City remains the "marijuana arrest capital of the world."
"Unfortunately, these figures are cause for outrage, not celebration," Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement. "In this economy, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD are wasting millions of tax dollars by using illegal searches and false charges to sweep tens of thousands of black and Latino youth into the criminal justice system.
A person who is caught smoking marijuana, or has a small amount of it in public view, is still subject to arrest, according to the guidelines. But in cases where "the same small amount" is discovered in a suspect's pockets during a police search, it is considered a violation, punishable by summons, Brown said.
Police Memo on Marijuana Warns Against Some Arrests
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS Published: September 23, 2011 nytimes.com
Here's a thought....GO ARREST THE WHITE COLLARS ON WALL STREET. Marijuana didn't crash the economy. Leave us alone. -UA
Amid criticism about the way New York City police officers enforce marijuana laws, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly issued a memo to commanders this week reiterating that officers are not to arrest people who have small amounts of marijuana in their possession unless it is in public view.
The New York Legislature decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in the 1970s, making possession of 25 grams or less a violation of the law that in most cases would not bring a jail sentence. But possessing even small amounts of marijuana in public view remains a misdemeanor.
Just over 50,000 people were arrested on marijuana possession charges last year, a vast majority of them members of minorities and male. Critics say that as part of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, officers routinely tell suspects to empty their pockets and then, if marijuana is displayed, arrest them for having the drugs in public view, thereby pushing thousands of people toward criminality and into criminal justice system.
Critics said the commissioner’s memo, reported on Friday by WNYC, represented a major change of policy. “This will make a tremendous difference because tens of thousands of young people — predominately young people of color — will not be run through the system as criminals,” said Steven Banks, the attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society, which has handled thousands of the cases.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that has been challenging the Police Department’s marijuana-arrest policies, said the order was directing a significant change in the way the police deal with people they arrest for small amounts of marijuana.
Mr. Nadelmann said that there was evidence of “gross racial disparity” in the enforcement of the marijuana laws and that “this appears to represent a major step forward.”
Although the memo begins, “Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests,” a spokesman for the Police Department said that the order was not in response to any particular incident and that it did not represent any change in policy. It was intended merely to remind officers of existing procedures, he said.
The memo says, “A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marihuana.” The act of displaying it, the order continues, must be “actively undertaken of the subject’s own volition.”
Under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the number of low-level marijuana arrests has increased significantly. Mr. Bloomberg’s office declined to comment on Mr. Kelly’s order, but in the past, mayoral aides have said such arrests helped fight more serious crime, like the violence that tends to trail drugs.
Harry G. Levine, a sociologist at Queens College who has researched the issue, said public defenders and legal aid lawyers who have defended thousands of these cases estimate that between two-thirds and three-fourths of people arrested on charges of possession of small amounts of marijuana displayed it at an officer’s request.
“The police stop them, search them and tell them to empty their pockets,” Professor Levine said. “They don’t know the law doesn’t allow that.”
According to Professor Levine, on average over the past 15 years, 54 percent of people arrested for marijuana possession in New York City were black, 33 percent were Latino and 12 percent were white. National studies tend to show that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks and Latinos.
In a March appearance before the City Council, Mr. Kelly reiterated the Bloomberg administration’s position that arrests for having marijuana in public view have helped keep crime low.
In response to council members who were skeptical of the policy, he said, “If you think the law is not written correctly, then you should petition the State Legislature to change it.”
Hakeem Jeffries, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, and Mark Grisanti, a Republican senator from Buffalo, have since sponsored a bill that would downgrade open possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.
City Hall is opposed to changing the law.
In June, Frank Barry, a mayoral aide, said downgrading the offense would “encourage smoking in the streets and in our parks, reversing successful efforts to clean up neighborhoods and eliminate the open-air drug markets like we used to find in Washington Square Park.”
New York Marijuana Bill May Stall; Connecticut To Decriminalize Pot Possession
Good thing its not up to the Lt. jr Governor!- UA
More than 30 years ago, New York state decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But one line in that 1977 law has led to the annual arrest of thousands of New Yorkers under the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk searches.
Having fewer than 25 grams of marijuana at home is not a criminal offense, but displaying or smoking the same substance out on the street (or in any public place) is. The police have used that fact as part of an aggressive, and critics say unconstitutional, campaign to deter crime by detaining large numbers of people in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
New York police arrested 50,377 people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana last year. Last month, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) introduced a bill in Albany to decriminalize public possession.
So far, Jeffries told HuffPost, the response has been encouraging, but time is running out before the end of the session on June 20.
"If we are able to advance it out of committee, it has a shot of passing in the Assembly," he said.
Gabriel Sayegh, the director of state organizing for the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the bill, said he was not optimistic the measure would become law this year. But he added that the proposal has sparked "quite the conversation" in the capital.
"In short, this is Albany, so this is going to be a very a difficult fight. It's not going to pass without a major, major push," Sayegh said.
Both Sayegh and Jeffries pointed to one sign of hope for advocates of further decriminalization: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have yet to take a public position on the decriminalization push.
Across the border in Connecticut, a bill to decriminalize pot possession in general passed in the Senate on Sunday and the House on Tuesday.
When Gov. Dan Malloy (D) signs the measure into law, as he has promised to do, a first-time violation for possessing less than a half ounce of pot will carry a $150 fine. Possession of less than four ounces can currently be punished with a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
Connecticut would become the 14th state to decriminalize some amount of marijuana.
Michael Lawlor, Governor Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, told HuffPost the bill was intended to "free up a lot of resources in the criminal justice system to focus on more serious and violent offenses."
Instead of sending suspects to be booked and enter the criminal justice system, they will receive a fine, and in Lawlor's experience as a criminal justice professor, "swift and certain punishment is more effective than potential severity of punishment."
Another bill in Connecticut, to legalize medical marijuana, faces a more uncertain future. Lawlor sees "strong bipartisan support" in his state, but is also concerned about a filibuster threat in the Senate.
"If we could get it debated, it would certainly pass," Lawlor said. Another such bill passed in 2007 but was vetoed by then-Governor M. Jodi Rell.
State Sen. Toni Boucher (R) opposes both the decriminalization of marijuana and the current version of the medical marijuana bill. She has gone so far as to claim that Malloy supports the legislation out of a personal interest, according to an interview with the Stonington Patch:
“Malloy is promoting this bill," she said. "One of his sons has had serious problems with drugs. [The governor] has a personal interest in this."
Boucher was referring to Benjamin Malloy's arrests for dealing marijuana and robbing a man with marijuana at gunpoint. Governor Malloy declined to comment to Patch.
Items linked to drug probe
Investigators seize laptops, papers at home of UAlbany police investigator, husband
By PAUL NELSON timesunion.com
Updated 09:46 p.m., Thursday, May 19, 2011
This one really messes with my moral compass.....This woman is scum......karma found ya detective! -UA
DUANESBURG -- Authorities seized several laptops, marijuana and "assorted paperwork" from the Duanesburg home and the work and personal vehicles of a highly respected University at Albany police detective and her husband as part of a sting involving an alleged marijuana-growing operation, according to court papers.
Besides the Colonial-style residence at 668 Suits Road, the search warrant issued Monday by Duanesburg Town Justice Robert Butler Sr. also covered the 1,400-square-foot pole barn where authorities allege Wendy and Kenneth Knoebel were growing about 100 pot plants.
The two, who face a federal charge of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, were released Wednesday after an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Randolph Treece in Albany.
Wendy Knoebel, 48, is an investigator at the University at Albany campus. Kenneth Knoebel turns 44 at the end of the month.
Attorney Adam Parisi of Schenectady, who is listed in court documents as the couple's lawyer, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.
UAlbany spokesman Karl Luntta said Knoebel's employment status was a personnel matter and declined to say if she had been suspended.
A feature story on Knoebel was removed from the UAlbany website by Luntta. He said he took it down because of all the attention that would be focused on Knoebel. In the story, she is highlighted for compassion toward students, and she talks about sifting through garbage and laundry for investigations and making arrests.
"What really separates her from other highly skilled professional is that she's relentless," UAlbany police Chief J. Frank Wiley said in the story. "She has the eye of the tiger. There is no one like her anywhere."
The feature story included a photo of her and several other UAlbany officers with President George Philip.
A federal felony complaint filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration indicates State Police investigators raided the Schenectady County property on Monday. Police said they found marijuana plants growing inside a pole barn with heated floors.
Police said they also found small amounts of marijuana in the couple's home.
Knoebel became a SUNY police officer in 1991. She moved to Tennessee in the mid-1990s and continued her police career there before returning to the SUNY police force. She was assigned to the University at Albany campus in 1995.
In 1997, Knoebel, a certified evidence technician, was promoted to investigator, according to the university's website. In 2002, she received an award for "excellence in police services," according to the university.