New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking state legislators to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana that are in public view.
Saying the aim was to avoid unnecessary misdemeanor charges against thousands of New Yorkers -- "disproportionately black and Hispanic youth," according to a statement from the governor's office -- the legislation "brings consistency and fairness" to New York's marijuana laws.
"There is a blatant inconsistency. If you possess marijuana privately it is a violation, if you show it in public it's a crime. It's incongruous. It's inconsistent the way it has been enforced," Cuomo told reporters at a press conference in Albany on Monday.
In 1977, New York's legislature reduced the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana to a non-criminal violation carrying a fine of no more than $100 for first-time offenders -- as long as the marijuana was in private possession and not in public view.
If the marijuana is out and viewable in public -- as it might be when someone is asked to empty his or her pockets during a so-called police "stop and frisk" -- it becomes a Class B misdemeanor.
Selling and smoking or burning marijuana is still a crime, and Cuomo is not suggesting changing that.
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