New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking for a change in state law that would drastically reduce the number of people who could be arrested for marijuana possession as a result of police stops, the New York Times reports. He is seeking the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. Critics say the offense has ensnared tens of thousands of young black and Latino men who are stopped by New York City police for other reasons but after being instructed to empty their pockets, find themselves charged with a crime.
Reducing the impact of the Bloomberg administration's stop-and-frisk policy has been a top priority of lawmakers from minority neighborhoods, who have urged Cuomo to pay more attention to the needs of their communities. The lawmakers argue that young men found with small amounts of marijuana are being needlessly funneled into the criminal justice system and have difficulty finding jobs as a result. The governor would be acting against the wishes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and in spite of a September directive from police commissioner Raymond Kelly, who instructed officers not to arrest people who take small amounts of marijuana out of their pockets or bags after being stopped by the police.