Hakeem Jeffries must be really dedicated to the youth vote – the state assemblyman and now congressional candidate won’t let the issue of stop and frisk and racist drug policy laws die, kinda. From his latest press release:
What many New Yorkers do not know is that the state decriminalized marijuana possession over thirty years ago making private possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana (about 7/8 of an ounce) a violation punishable by a $100 fine, and possession of any amount in view of the public was made a misdemeanor. In passing the Marihuana Reform Act of 1977 – then co-sponsored by a Republican state senator and a Democratic state assemblyman – the legislature made an explicit finding that became part of the new law: “Arrests, criminal prosecutions and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana (sic) for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and waste millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime.”
While we admire Jeffries for staying on this issue we do have to scold him a little for his classic liberal form. Instead of potentially going all the way with this to legalize marijuana, he has introduced legislation to make possession in public view also a violation, bringing it down from misdemeanor status, but not solving the problem of arresting people for personal use of marijuana. (I know, I know, baby steps.)
Essentially he argues in favor of closing the loophole where cops can make misdemeanor arrests for any amount of marijuana possession by stopping and forcing folks in communities of color to empty their pockets. “During stop-and-frisk encounters, marijuana is being ordered out of the pocket and into the air by police, which puts it in ‘plain view.’ Had the small amount of marijuana remained out of sight, it would be classified as a violation, punishable by a $100 fine,” claims Jeffries.
So here’s how things get racial: white people are stopped and frisked in some nominal percentage relative to over a million black and Latino New Yorkers over the last decade. ONE MILLION. Pause. Let that sink in. More from the release:
A new report released this month by the New York Civil Liberties Union shows that the NYPD stopped and interrogated people 684,330 times in 2011, with almost 90 percent being black or Latino. Accordingly, last year produced over 50,000 arrests for the lowest-level marijuana possession offense, making 2011 the second-highest period for marijuana arrests in New York City history. The overwhelming majority of residents arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession are black and Latino, even the studies consistently show that whites use marijuana in equal if not greater numbers.
“This dramatic racial disparity is startling,” said Jeffries. “It proves that while Jim Crow may be dead, he still has a few nieces and nephews that are alive and well.”
(Photo from CrownHeights.info)