New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose lowering the penalty for public possession of a small amount of marijuana, reducing it from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Possession of less than 25 grams was reduced to a violation in 1977, subject to a ticket and fine. If the pot is burning or in public view, it rises to a misdemeanor that leads to arrest.
In New York City, police arrest more than 50,000 people annually on the misdemeanor, a statistic critics say has been driven by their stop-and-frisk program that unfairly targets minorities.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has reminded officers they cannot trigger an arrest by searching people or telling them to empty their pockets. He says most arrests result from drug transactions or public pot smoking witnessed by officers.
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