Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jan 2017
Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY)
Copyright: 2017 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Author: Joseph Spector


ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making another pitch for the state to
decriminalize possession of some marijuana.

Cuomo quietly included the proposal in a 380-page State of the State
message that he provided late Wednesday to the state Legislature.

"The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New
York state, but data consistently show that recreational users of
marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety," is on Page 191 of
Cuomo's message.

The idea will again stoke a debate in Albany after the issue gained
prominence in 2012 -- when the Democratic governor first made the push to
decriminalize possession of marijuana.

The measure was rejected by Senate Republicans, with then-Senate Majority
Leader Dean Skelos memorably saying, "Being able to just walk around with
10 joints in each ear and it only be a violation, I think that's wrong."

Skelos' comments were spoofed on The Daily Show, which called him "Fran

There was no immediate comment from Senate Republicans on whether they
would revisit the idea; Skelos left office in 2015 after being charged and
later convicted in a corruption case.

It was also uncertain whether Cuomo would submit the same bill as in 2012
- -- which would have reduced the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of
pot to a violation.

State law now makes it a misdemeanor if the drug is in public view, but it
is a violation if it's in private.

Cuomo has not supported the legalization of marijuana, which is now legal
in seven states.

But he noted the changing landscape: New York in 2014 legalized medical
marijuana in non-smokeable forms for patients with certain conditions, and
the state in recent months loosened the regulations to make it more
available to more people.

Also, neighboring Massachusetts last month legalized marijuana, raising
new questions about how New York would enforce its laws.

"This measure reflects the national trend and a dramatic shift in public
opinion," Cuomo's message stated.

"Whereas other states have sought the full legalization of marijuana, this
legislative change will specifically affect individual users and not
reduce penalties on those who illegally supply and sell marijuana."

Cuomo's message noted that 90 percent of marijuana law violations
nationally were for possession and not sale.

He also cited statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-marijuana
group, that estimated New York City in 2010 spent $75 million to arrest
and jail people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The message from Cuomo noted that the measure is part of his larger push
to modernize New York's sentencing laws and remove mandatory minimum
sentences for minor offenses.
- ---
MAP posted-by: