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Cuomo's Plan To Decriminalize Small Amounts Of Marijuana Dies In Albany

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Monday, June 4, 2012. Cuomo is proposing the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Monday, June 4, 2012. Cuomo is proposing the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view appears dead in Albany this week, The New York Times reports.

The plan would've softened the punishment for the possession of 25 grams or less-- in public view-- from a criminal misdemeanor to a violation with a fine of up to $100.

The bill, however, seems to have been lost in the last minute scramble of the legislative session in Albany. With some strong resistance by Senate Republicans, the popular Cuomo extended himself too far, it seems, on other issues-- such as, according to The Wall Street Journal, "cyberbullying, child pornography and oversight of state homes for the disabled"-- to strike a deal on the marijuana bill.

Cuomo downplayed the importance of the bill, however, saying, "Nothing that we have left, frankly, is that urgent that it can’t take more time, and, frankly, wouldn’t be better with more time.”

When Cuomo introduced the plan earlier this month, a member of his staff told The Times, "This proposal will bring long overdue consistency and fairness to New York State's Penal Law and save thousands of New Yorkers, particularly minority youth, from the unnecessary and life-altering trauma of a criminal arrest, and, in some cases, prosecution."

The plan was endorsed by both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, both likely reacting to escalating pressure over the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisks.

Under the current marijuana law, possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana shouldn't result in arrest unless it's "burning or in public view." The NYPD, however, will often ask the hundreds of thousands they stop on the streets to empty their pockets, and when the marijuana comes out of the pocket, it becomes "in public view," and they can make an arrest.

Kelly issued a memo to the NYPD in September that read, "A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana." The memo, however, seemed to have little effect on the number of marijuana arrests.

There are more arrests for low-level marijuana offenses than any other crime in New York City. According to the Associated Press, marijuana arrests in New York account for one out of every seven cases in the city's criminal courts. In 2010, the city spent $75 million to put pot-smokers behind bars.

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