A final agreement on decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana could apply only to New York City, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Tuesday, while bath salts and synthetic pot could be outlawed statewide.
Negotiations over the state’s marijuana laws have become tangled up in closed-door negotiating sessions on a $136.5 billion state budget and — according to legislative leaders — is one of the last remaining obstacles to a deal on a spending plan.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Silver laid out one possibility: Passing a law that would allow the New York City Council to change the penalty for public possession of small amounts of weed in the city.
That would allow lawmakers to deal with New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, which critics say unfairly targets young minority residents who are forced to empty their pockets, but wouldn’t impact the rest of the state. If police find someone with marijuana in public, it’s currently a misdemeanor in New York; If it’s within someone’s home, it’s a violation.
“There is a thought that it can apply only to New York City,” Silver said, “by authorizing the local legislative body to enact those changes.”
Senate Republicans and the state Conservative Party have pushed back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial plan to reduce the penalty for public possession on a statewide basis, and have pushed for the criminalization of possessing bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Currently, the substances have been banned by the state Health Department, but aren’t in the criminal code. Silver said adding a criminal penalty for bath salts and synthetic pot has been part of the marijuana discussions.