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Sep 4, 2019 10:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Softens Marijuana Punishments, But Local Cops Don't See Cause For Concern

Lower punishments for possession of marijuana went into effect in New York State last week.
Sep 10, 2019 3:00 PM

Changes to New York State’s marijuana laws went into effect on August 28, but local law enforcement officials say they think it will have a negligible effect on their daily operations.

The new law, signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on July 29 and effective 30 days later, lowers punishments for possession of the drug, fully decriminalizes smoking marijuana in public and erases the criminal records of those who faced low-level marijuana convictions.

Prior to the new law, someone caught in possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. Any amount under 25 grams — about the weight of a AA-sized battery — was a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100 for the first offense. Now, a person can have up to two ounces, or 56 grams — a C battery weighs 65 grams, for comparison — and receive only a fine.

The fine for possessing between 1 and 2 ounces can be up to $200, and the fine for possessing under 1 ounce, or 28 grams, can be up to $50.

“I don’t think the change was too drastic,” Quogue Village Police Lieutenant Daniel Hartman said. “Business is going to continue as usual, I believe. It’s still illegal, and we’re still going to have people in violation of that. It’ll just streamline, I guess, essentially, being able to release people in the field versus arresting them physically.”

Westhampton Beach Village Police Chief Trevor Gonce said the change would not affect his department’s current operations either, but he noted that the possibility of future case law that may result from the decriminalization legislation could have an effect on existing departmental policy and procedures.

“The decriminalization of marijuana appears to be a move toward the legalization of marijuana in New York State,” Chief Gonce said in an email.

If the state were to legalize the drug, police would have more to worry about than the newly enacted legislation, Lieutenant Hartman pointed out, as impaired driving could rise. “One of the biggest concerns we would have as law enforcement is driving under the influence of a drug,” he said.

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal for the last five years, Colorado State Patrol noted that in 2018, more than 20 percent of all of its DUI citations involved marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website. The same data showed that from 2017 to 2018, the state patrol saw a 25 percent increase in marijuana DUI citations.

New York State lawmakers have explored the possibility of legalizing the drug, but disagreements on certain terms caused legislation to fail this June, just before the end of the legislative session. The failure led legislators to compromise and pass a bill that decriminalized larger amounts of marijuana, which is now in effect.

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To the tune of row, row, row your boat:

Roll, roll, roll a joint, lick it at the end, take a toke of the magic smoke and pass it to a friend : )

Wish I had more time to sit on the beach watching the sunset while indulging in Jah's herb.
By Aeshtron (406), Southampton on Sep 17, 19 9:20 AM
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