By JESS STRING | May 22, 2013
Members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, along with VOCAL-NY, rallied at the Million Dollar Staircase in the Capitol Wednesday to protest current stop-and-frisk practices and push for a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
With statistics showing that 82 percent of young individuals arrested for marijuana possession are either Black or Latino — even though more white high school seniors use marijuana than minorities — the lawmakers believe the penalty for carrying small amounts of marijuana is a gateway to racial profiling by law enforcement.
“It’s not in the best interests of society to give these young men and women a criminal record. It’s not right,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, D-Brooklyn. “Many of them are first time offenders; non-violent, [with a] small amount for recreational purposes. Many times it’s because of stop-and-frisk. You’re told to empty out your pockets and at the snap of a finger you go from a summons to a misdemeanor.”
The recently amended bills (A.6716-a/S.3105-a) would decriminalize marijuana in a public place open to public view that weighs less than 15 grams. Any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor only when it is being burned in a public place. Camara, sponsor of the bill, said the opposition to the bill is confused about its initial intention, calling it a legalization of marijuana.
“Everybody’s talking about the bill and some people are misunderstanding what we are saying … That we’re trying to legalize marijuana and we’re not,” Camara said. “What we’re saying is that we want to stop injustices that are perpetrating against primarily black and Latino males.”
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