senate Bill S5187

Relates to standardizing penalties associated with marijuana possession

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Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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actions

  • 03 / May / 2011
    • REFERRED TO CODES
  • 04 / Jan / 2012
    • REFERRED TO CODES

Summary

Relates to standardizing penalties associated with marijuana possession; makes unlawful possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation punishable by a fine.

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Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A7620
Versions:
S5187
Legislative Cycle:
2011-2012
Current Committee:
Senate Codes
Law Section:
Penal Law
Laws Affected:
Amd §221.05 & 221.10, Pen L

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER:S5187

TITLE OF BILL:
An act
to amend the penal law, in relation to standardize penalties associated
with marijuana possession

PURPOSE:
To standardize criminal penalties for unlawful possession of
marihuana.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
This bill amends sections 221.05 and
221.10 of the penal law to standardize penalties for unlawful
possession of marihuana.

JUSTIFICATION:
In 1977, the Legislature made possession of small
amounts of marihuana a violation punishable by a fine, while
possession in public view was made a misdemeanor. The intent behind
the law was clear. Chapter 360 of the Laws of 1977 reads: "The
legislature finds that arrests, criminal prosecutions and criminal
penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities
of marihuana for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly
scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law
enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of
serious crime."

According to data from the Division of Criminal Justice Services, in
2010, a total of 54,813 people were arrested for this offense in New
York - and fully 50,383 of these arrests took place in New York City.
One out of every seven arrests in New York City is for marijuana
possession, comprising 15 percent of all arrests in that city. From
1977 -1994, few people were arrested for 221.10. But from 1997 to
2010, the New York City Police Department arrested and jailed more
than 525,000 people for this offense. Those arrested were charged
with the lowest level criminal offense - a misdemeanor-- and nearly
every person was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car or
van, and taken to the local police station, where they were
photographed, fingerprinted, and then held, often for 24 hours or
longer, in one of city's jails.

Numerous studies and media stories demonstrate that many of those
arrested for marijuana in public view were improperly charged - they
possessed small amounts of marijuana in their pocket or bag, and thus
were subject to a violation and fine. Instead, they were arrested and
charged with possessing marijuana in public view, often after
following a police officer instruction to remove the marihuana from
their pocket or bag.{1}

Many of these arrests are the result a stop-and-frisk encounter and
contribute to stark racial disparities in the criminal justice
system. In 2009, for example, the NYPD stopped 574,304 individuals.
Of those who were the subject of a police stop that year, nearly
ninety percent were people of color; and nine of every ten persons
stopped were released without any further legal action taken against
them. Of the 50,383 people arrested in New York City for marijuana
possession in public view, nearly eighty six percent were black and
Latino, and nearly seventy percent were between the ages of 16 - 29
even though U.S. Government surveys of high school seniors show that
whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks and Latinos.{2}

These arrests are extremely costly. According to research by Queens
College professor Dr. Harry Levine, the cost of each arrest is
between $1,000 and 52,000 - thus New York City spent between $50
- $100 million on marijuana possession arrests in 2010 alone.

In a March 2011 New York City Public Safety Committee hearing, New
York City council Member Melissa Mark Viverito asked NYPD
Commissioner Ray Kelly about these arrests likely resulting from
improper searchers or mischarging practices. The Commissioner
replied, "If you think the law is not written correctly, then you
should petition the state Legislature to change it."

A legislative remedy is needed to standardize penalties associated
with marijuana possession, in order to end the existing practices
which "needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of
dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the
prosecution of serious crime."

This legislation will make unlawful possession of small amounts of
marijuana a violation punishable by a fine.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
New Bill.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:
None.

EFFECTIVE DATE:
This act shall take effect immediately.

FOOTNOTES:
{1} Harry Levine and Deborah Peterson Small, Marijuana Arrest Crusade.
Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York Gay, 1997 -2007, (New York:
New York Civil Liberties union, 2008)

{2} U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Office of Applied
Studies. Table 1.34a marijuana use in lifetime, past year, and past
month among persons aged 12 to 17, by demographic characteristics.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002 and 2003

view bill text
                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  5187

                       2011-2012 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                               May 3, 2011
                               ___________

Introduced  by Sen. GRISANTI -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes

AN ACT to amend the penal law,  in  relation  to  standardize  penalties
  associated with marijuana possession

  THE  PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. The opening paragraph of section 221.05 of the  penal  law,
as  added  by  chapter  360  of  the laws of 1977, is amended to read as
follows:
  A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marihuana when he OR  SHE
knowingly and unlawfully possesses marihuana.
  S 2. Section 221.10 of the penal law, as amended by chapter 265 of the
laws  of  1979 and subdivision 2 as amended by chapter 75 of the laws of
1995, is amended to read as follows:
S 221.10 Criminal possession of marihuana in the fifth degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal possession of marihuana  in  the  fifth
degree when he OR SHE knowingly and unlawfully possesses[:
  1.  marihuana  in a public place, as defined in section 240.00 of this
chapter, and such marihuana is burning or open to public view; or
  2.] one  or  more  preparations,  compounds,  mixtures  or  substances
containing  marihuana  and  the  preparations,  compounds,  mixtures  or
substances are of an aggregate weight of more than twenty-five grams.
  Criminal possession of marihuana in the fifth  degree  is  a  class  B
misdemeanor.
  S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.



 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD11391-01-1

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