Marijuana laws, New York City school aid still alive in NY budget talks

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Legislative leaders continued to insist Tuesday that a deal on a $136 billion state spending plan is within reach, while issues like decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and restoring New York City school aid are still being discussed.

Top lawmakers emerged Tuesday morning with no final budget deal after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for about an hour, the latest in a series of lengthy negotiating sessions over the past several days.

“We’re working on narrowing more issues and I’m optimistic — as you know, I’m always optimistic — we’ll have a final agreement at some point today,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, told reporters Tuesday.

Lawmakers have been nearing a final agreement that would include increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016 and — according to Skelos — about $700 million in tax cuts for businesses and families.

But the legislative leaders and Cuomo have also been discussing issues surrounding New York City school funding and possession of marijuana, Silver said. Since the city school district didn’t come to an agreement on a teacher evaluation system this year, it was hit with a $240 million cut in aid from the state — which Silver has been pushing to restore with resistance from Cuomo.

“I’m still trying to make sure of two things: One, they get it restored; and two, even if they don’t get it restored then it stays in the base of operations so increases are based on as if the $240 million were still there,” Silver said.

Meanwhile, a proposal from Cuomo to reduce the penalty for public possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation has entered the budget negotiations as well, Silver said. Cuomo’s plan is meant as a means to deal with New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, which critics say unfairly targets young minority residents who are forced by police to empty their pockets.

When asked whether a change to the marijuana law would apply to just the city or the entire state, Silver said it’s still being negotiated.

“Marijuana is something that’s being discussed. It’s on the table right now. There’s no definite conclusion, but the stop-and-frisk issue is clearly a New York City issue.”

(AP photo / Mike Groll)

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  1. Malcolm Kyle on

    Prohibition has diverted police resources away from other law enforcement activities with the result that violent crime and crime against property is driven far higher than it would have been otherwise. To the extent that communities divert law enforcement resources from violent crimes to illegal drug offenses the risk of punishment for engaging in violent crime is reduced.

    The National Firearms Act of 1934 was actually a direct response to the acute rise in prohibition (1919-33) engendered gun violence.

    PROHIBITION EQUATES TO MORE VIOLENT CRIME WHICH LEADS TO MORE CALLS FOR GUN CONTROL

    The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada reviewed 15 studies that evaluated the association between violence and drug law enforcement. “Our ?ndings suggest that increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, the existing evidence base suggests that gun violence and high homicide rates may be an inevitable consequence of drug prohibition and that disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence.”

    During alcohol prohibition all profits went to enrich criminals and corrupt politicians. Young men, while battling over turf, died every day on inner-city streets. A vast fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed! Sound familiar?

    Prohibitionists and their gun-control criminal friends who live in a crack-house called Congress are having a ball. And it’s all on our tab.

  2. North of the Hutch on

    Why on earth would they only change the marijuana laws for NYC?

    If the law needs to be fixed, then fix it for the entire state & not just 1 region!

  3. rewrite the unfairness on NY marijuna laws on

    A whiff of reality for Mr. Katz

    Thursday, March 21, 2013by: TU Editorial Board

    Our opinion: A state legislator is accused of marijuana possession. How can he not join the quest to bring some sense to New York’s pot laws?

    That was some traffic stop last week on the Thruway. The State Police did a lot more than pull over Assemblyman Steve Katz for speeding, and they dug up more than a minor case of possession of a small amount of marijuana.

    Mr. Katz is one of the people entrusted to make the laws that the rest of us have to follow. So let’s just hope that he is now ready to vote for a law that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes and decriminalize the possession of small quantities of it.

    It was one thing for him to oppose a medical marijuana bill when it came to a vote in the Assembly last year. So did most other Republicans. Besides, who was looking to a first-term, minority party legislator from Westchester County to lead the fight for a humane law to help ease the suffering endured by victims of cancer, arthritis, HIV and AIDS?

    But suddenly Mr. Katz is a central figure in the ongoing debate about marijuana laws in need of substantive change. The state trooper who arrested him might as well have said, “Step out of the car, and into the political spotlight, Mr. Katz.”

    How can a legislator who shows signs of using marijuana for recreational purposes continue to oppose a far more necessary use?

    How, too, can the Republican Assembly leadership that’s standing by Mr. Katz, despite an arrest that not so long ago would have derailed a political career, not reconsider its opposition to medical marijuana?

    The usual political hypocrisy can’t be tolerated this time — surely not by all the people tormented by relentless nausea, pain and anxiety for whom the legal use of marijuana could make life more bearable.

    For their good, New York must follow the lead of 18 other states and the District of Columbia, which already have legalized medical marijuana.

    It’s to Mr. Katz’s credit that he has spared his fellow New Yorkers the usual ritual of an insincere, politically motivated apology. His comments on his arrest have instead been a defense of his legislative priorities — specifically mandate relief, further improvement to a still-languishing economy and constituent services.

    That’s all fine, assuming that Mr. Katz now embraces the public role he can’t avoid.

    One of the other issues before the Legislature this session is the appropriate penalty for pot possession. Having a small enough amount of marijuana on your person — as Mr. Katz allegedly did — is penalized with the equivalent of a speeding ticket. But having that same amount of marijuana in what’s considered “public view,” even if it’s put there as a result of a police order to empty one’s pockets, is still prosecuted as a crime.

    It’s black and Hispanic youths, mostly, who pay the cruel price for such a double standard. And it’s black and Hispanic legislators from New York City who are leading the fight the change that law.

    Now comes an ally, surely, as invaluable as he was unlikely — a white Republican man from the suburbs. Mr. Katz can best survive the embarrassment of his arrest by confronting the very law that treats him so gingerly but others so harshly.

    An otherwise routine police stop on the Thruway might be just what it takes to prod the Legislature into rewriting the unfairness out of New York’s marijuana laws.