The way police enforce marijuana laws in New York City amounts to little more than arresting people for the color of their skin. Technically, possession is decriminalized there. But displaying pot in public is not. So police routinely—at a rate of tens of thousands a year—stop people on the street, frisk them, and tell them to empty their pockets. And when people pull out that little bag of pot, blam, they're arrested. (Refusing to cooperate with cops can also get you booked in jail, so you're screwed either way.) This has made marijuana in plain view the most common arrest in New York City, with cops racking up about 50,000 a year, and black and Hispanic suspects arrested at proportions beyond their segments of the population. Even worse, "black and Hispanic MPV arrestees have been more likely to be detained prior to arraignment, convicted, and sentenced to jail than their white counterparts," this study explains. Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani are staunchly in favor of keeping up this practice.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, reaching down from Albany and into the affairs of New York City, is not.
The governor will call for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view, administration officials said. [...]
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 Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, 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.
For years, this crap has been tolerated because, hey, it's pot. No politician can come to the defense of the stoners. But pot laws were never about pot—the pot has always been an incidental criminal offense. Criminalizing pot in the 1930s was designed to cast a net so broad that police could ensnare anyone they feel like targeting.
But stop-and-frisk practices have become toxic, and pot decriminalization has become nontoxic.
Cuomo, bless his soul, has a nose for the moment that support is on his side for ending bigoted policy—like marriage discrimination—and pushing these anachronistic, and genuinely repugnant, laws off the books. Good for him. Hopefully he's a national bellwether for politicians who can admit that prohibition is, and always has been, a proxy for racism.