NY State Assembly votes to decriminalize public possession of small amounts of marijuana

Posted at 11:00 PM, May 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-30 23:00:30-04

The New York state assembly voted to decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana.

Instead of an arrest – and handcuffs for a class B misdemeanor — you’d receive a ticket for a civil violation.

Assemblyman Karim Camara told fellow legislators, “What we’re saying is that, in the best interest of society, that we not arrest these individuals for a small amount that would give them a criminal record – compound the chance of them gaining employment, compound the chance of them completing an education. And basically, we’re saying we want you to live on the fringes of society.”

The vote is significant because of how it could redefine the NYPD’s controversial practice of stop and frisk.

The New York Civil Liberties Union’s analysis of NYPD data shows the more than half a million people — 532,911 — were stopped last year under the stop and frisk program.

Out of those stops, 729 guns were found.

But the NYCLU found 5,300 people were arrested for marijuana possession.

The vote passed comfortably – but not without vigorous debate.

“This bill says if you’re in the open, and you carry a certain amount of marijuana, it’s no longer a crime,” said Nassau County Republican Assemblymen Tom McKevitt.

Interestingly the bill passed with the support of Republican Assemblyman Steven Katz, the once vocal opponent of the even the medical use of marijuana was busted back in March for – yes, marijuana possession during a traffic stop.

Today, the Republican was the only member of his party to vote in favor of the marijuana decriminalization bill.