The Democrats who control New York’s State Assembly, many of them black or Latino residents of New York City, saw a proposal to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana a simple matter of justice: too many black and Latino men were being arrested because, after being stopped by the police, they were forced to empty their pockets, says the New York Times. The Republicans who run the State Senate, all of them white and most of them from suburban or rural districts, saw decriminalization differently: as an invitation for young people to use drugs and as a declaration that Albany was soft on crime.
“Marijuana still is a gateway drug to so many other much more dangerous things,” said Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican. The differing life experiences, and worldviews, of lawmakers in the two chambers proved too much to overcome in the final days of this legislative session, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared his marijuana proposal dead. Cuomo, a Democrat, said: “You have old folks like me who say, 'Whoa, the decriminalization of marijuana: What are you saying? Everyone is going to walk around smoking marijuana, and that's O.K.?' So I think the Senate got a lot of blowback, pardon the pun.”