Marijuana decriminalization: New York Senate won’t vote on bill

ALBANY — Senate Republicans will leave Albany on Thursday without passing legislation that would decriminalize a small amount of marijuana. “We’re going to end this session with a bang, not a bong,” said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County. Skelos said Senate Republicans would continue to support keeping the possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana a misdemeanor and not a fine. “That’s 63 joints,” Skelos said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought the legislation mainly to curb the heavily criticized stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, where a small amount of marijuana possession was leading to misdemeanor arrests. Skelos was mocked on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show last week when he said: “Being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.” The show’s host, Jon Stewart, called Skelos “Fran Narc-ington.” After Thursday’s bong line, Skelos joked, “Now, if that gets me on the Daily Show again, my son will be absolutely thrilled.” Cuomo and Assembly Democrats earlier this month proposed legislation that would make possession of marijuana under 25 grams a fine of up to $100.

Advocates said youth could be negatively impacted by the misdemeanor marijuana charge, particularly in inner cities. The proposal would mainly impact New York City, which had the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, but the measure would affect the whole state. There were 53,124 low-level marijuana arrests in 2011, and 94 percent were in New York City. Cuomo’s office said that more than 50 percent of those arrested were under age 25 and 82 percent were either black or Hispanic. Cuomo knocked Senate Republicans on Wednesday for not supporting the bill. He said the state Conservative Party “made their voice heard” on the issue. “I think there’s no doubt that the state Senate heard the conservative wing of the party, and they’re reacting to it,” Cuomo said. But Skelos, who was reportedly booed at a Conservative Party dinner last week, said Senate Republicans didn’t support the bill even before the Conservative Party’s opposition. Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Elmira, said he doesn’t support the marijuana bill. He said some lawmakers are seeking to make synthetic marijuana illegal, but want to loosen laws on regular marijuana. “I think it’s somewhat contradictory that we’re looking to decriminalize public, open possession of 25 grams of marijuana when at the same time we’re trying to criminalize fake pot,” he said.

via : Democrat and Chronicle

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