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New York State Is Set to Loosen Marijuana Laws (nytimes.com)
84 points by weu on Jan 4, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments

Coloradan here.

No matter how dangerous and unhealthy you think marijuana is, confrontational relations with law enforcement and pre-trial detention for marijuana possession are much more dangerous and unhealthy. Prison is violence, and lets drop the Newspeak: arrests result in prison.

Its time to end Prohibition. Its time to legalize it.

Chris Hayes nailed it last night:


That is an amazingly well delivered monologue. Never heard of this guy, must keep tabs on him, I have new-found respect for mainstream journalism.

Like Chris Matthews, he has a tendency to talk too much and over his guests, but he's pretty bright and has solid progressive cred. The guy I really enjoy is Steve Kornacki, who fills in sometimes.

I too wish Chris Matthews would let his guests talk.

Good lord, what a fantastic video. Absolutely nailed it.

I particularly like this because it's a first-hand, completely transparent account, rather than a second-hand/third-hand/this-might-have-happen account of white privilege.

Yet one more of many reasons to despise David Brooks.

Imagine a world where the public as a whole had convivial relations with the police, because they weren't so many people worried about getting arrested for drug violations. Imagine a world where the massive resources dedicated to drug enforcement could be directed toward solving, preventing, and obtaining convictions for murders, rapes, and so on. Imagine a world where violent criminals could not so easily turn to drug dealing and drug cartels to take in easy money to support themselves and gain power. Imagine a world where police corruption is much less common due to diminished presence and wealth of drug cartels.

I, for one, would like the opportunity to live in that world.

The "empty your pockets" trick is particularly disgusting.

It's extremely unlikely you'll get prison for marijuana possession. Stop spreading propaganda.


And North Koreans are extremely unlikely to be sent to a concentration camp, and its extremely unlikely someone will be injured by a drunk driver. But the threat is no less real, and by no means propaganda.

That article is horrible.

That's because if you carry too much you automatically get charged with distribution, not possession. That despite the fact you never sold it to anyone else. I knew someone in my college economics class who had his life ruined over just that. He was just a smoker, not a dealer, but he carried a bit over the weight limit. Goodbye to his future.

Unless you're a black teenager living in the inner city and you rub the police the wrong way, in that case you're proper fucked.

Barely loosen. Like the most mundane loosening possible. Great job, New York Times headline copywriter.

This is actually pretty big. The fact that it's going to be dispensed by hospitals means that the state is going to have to create regulations governing production and distribution. Even though only a few thousand patients will be eligible, in terms of going towards full legalization this is actually a bigger step than many other states where it's easier to become eligible but there isn't any state infrastructure for distribution.

Isn't it a bit of a slippery slope (in a good way - if you support legalisation), in that it's a much bigger change of policy to go from no use to a few uses than it is to go from a few uses to many uses. I'd think this is a big step even if it's short-term impact is extremely limited.

The fact that NY laws regarding marijuana would directly conflict with Federal law is significant. As more states defy the Federal prohibition of marijuana, it creates more tension between the states and the USGOV. Eventually with enough tension of this kind, Congress will have enough political cover to actually do something.

Their isn't actually any conflict between state and federal laws, as there is nothing in the federal laws that requires states to make marijuana illegal. The whole idea of a legal conflict is just a conservative talking point.

The conflict has nothing to do with the federal government requiring the state government to outlaw marijuana. The conflict is, possessing, selling, or in any other way distributing marijuana is a federal offense. From the Controlled Substances Act [1]

"§ 844. Penalties for simple possession.

"(a) Unlawful acts; penalties "It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter. Any person who violates this subsection may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 1 year, and shall be fined a minimum of $1,000, or both, except that if he commits such offense after a prior conviction under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or a prior conviction for any drug or narcotic offense chargeable under the law of any State, has become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 15 days but not more than 2 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $2,500, except, further, that if he commits such offense after two or more prior convictions under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or two or more prior convictions for any drug or narcotic offense chargeable under the law of any State, or a combination of two or more such offenses have become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 90 days but not more than 3 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $5,000. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, a person convicted under this subsection for the possession of a mixture or substance which contains cocaine base shall be imprisoned not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, and fined a minimum of $1,000, if the conviction is a first conviction under this subsection and the amount of the mixture or substance exceeds 5 grams, if the conviction is after a prior conviction for the possession of such a mixture or substance under this subsection becomes final and the amount of the mixture or substance exceeds 3 grams, or if the conviction is after 2 or more prior convictions for the possession of such a mixture or substance under this subsection become final and the amount of the mixture or substance exceeds 1 gram. The imposition or execution of a minimum sentence required to be imposed under this subsection shall not be suspended or deferred. Further, upon conviction, a person who violates this subsection shall be fined the reasonable costs of the investigation and prosecution of the offense, including the costs of prosecution of an offense as defined in sections 1918 and 1920 of title 28, except that this sentence shall not apply and a fine under this section need not be imposed if the court determines under the provision of title 18 that the defendant lacks the ability to pay."

1. http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/legislation/ucm1487...

My thoughts exactly. Given the recent developments in other states, I thought it was an actual newsworthy event, instead of New York getting laws that I figured they already had.

NYTimes even sent this article out at as an alert. Guess they were proud of their scoop.

Can someone tell me how marijuana is currently treated by the police in New York? According to the article, New York has "long one of the nation’s most punitive states for those caught using or dealing drugs", but according to Wikipedia, marijuana is decriminalized in New York, which as far as I understand the term means that those caught with marijuana only get a relatively small penalty.

For quite a long time now, simple possession of under an ounce has been treated as a civil infraction. Anything else (sale, cultivation) is still a crime, of course.


Even still, when combined with stop and frisk the penalties aren't applied very evenly.

I can't comment on how the police treat it currently but your quote is referring to the Rockefeller Drug Laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockefeller_Drug_Laws) which mandated a 15 year minimum sentence for possessing or selling above certain limits until as recently as 2009. They have historically been some of the harshest and most punitive drug laws in the country.

My understanding is that many in NY are "gotten" by the additional charges, such as having paraphernalia on them, or merely exposing it or the paraphernalia when the cop asks about it which makes it no longer concealed.

This may be the tipping point regarding federal policy. With marijuana laws already effectively off the books in California, Washington, Colorado, and more, there just isn't anything the federal government can do to make up for it. The average state prosecutes more marijuana possession cases than the federal government, and now states are deciding not to do this.

I think there's a point now where it makes sense writing to Congress and asking exactly what Congress thinks they can accomplish in this area without lifting the federal ban.

Loosing laws on medical marijuana? Catching up with Canada circa 1990s. United States is so progressive these days.

is recreational use of marijuana legal anywhere in canada?

Vancouver maybe?

Definitely not.

In vancouver, yes you can smoke it in public places but most people don't except around beaches and parks or in dedicated vapor lounges (BYOS, bring your own stash) most people don't give a shit, but some old timers might be give you a stare and quickly look away because obviously marijuana is dangerous like heroin and that you are a thieving junky.

A police officer should you run into one, the worst he can do is take it away from you, if you happened to have a lot of it on you.

To be clear it is illegal to possess marijuana in Canada.

Canada is in a weird state right now where police chiefs are suggesting to the government that it should ticket people smoking on the street instead of arresting them, while the federal government is advancing notion of USA style crack down (recently mandatory minimum jail time for growing was passed).

It's not clear what will happen if police catch you smoking on the street, but my feeling is that it may not be treated as a minor issue like it would have been 10 years ago.

As a Canadian and a retired buddha smoker, I would say United States has beat Canada at it's most sacred national treasure (hockey, basketball too).

No longer can we thump our chest and scream 'BC BUD BEST BUD'. L.A. MMJ surpasses B.C. easily and it's far more relaxed than Vancouver. Far more ridiculously easier to get MMJ.

Have you tried to get medical marijuana here in Vancouver? Doctors prescribe anti-depressants because it works better than medical marijuana.

Don't buy this Canadian propaganda bullshit or somehow we are above United States, if anything, we suffer from heavy market regulation and interference from the government, federal and provincial and then point fingers at America and say look at those barbarians!

How the hell does incompetent government workers who can't get shit done get paid more than highly intellectual human capital in the tech industry, AND get more benefits AND get more job stability? It must be that all of our hard earned money is going towards the upper echelons of Canadian government, with a fat ass mayor taking crack cocaine off the streets by consuming it all and running around like an idiot for one.

It's still forward progress. Why the snark though? Is there anyone who doesn't know the United States isn't socially progressive relative to other western nations? The fact that we're loosening dumb laws is good.

On the topic of marijuana, the US is more liberal than most European countries. In exactly two European countries, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, can you obtain marijuana for medical purposes without risk of a fine or in the worst case ending up in jail.

Portugal also - you can possess it for personal use (medicinal or otherwise) as long as it's under 25g and you don't use it in public. (Same with other drugs there.)


In Berlin, weed is ...liberally treated by the police. A park with a huge refugee population is known for its open-view dope dealers, and the distric parliament is even thinking of using a loophole in controlled-substances laws to open an experimental coffee shop (Germans, read http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2013-11/berlin...).

And Spain - at least, in Barcelona, where there are legal ways to obtain marijuana, and not even for medical reasons.

Seems like whether they are legal or not is debatable, although the extent of my knowledge on Spanish law is having read this link just now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_and_medical_status_of_can...

Its pretty tolerated compared to UK and Austria (the countries I have lived in). You regularly smell it in the street, and police don't make such a big deal from anecdotal evidence.

I've on multiple occasions been on a UK street, witnessed a very strong smell of weed with police officers walking along near me, and had them do nothing. That said, I'd personally never take the risk of smoking in public in the UK (though I do know people who do).

Belgium's another country that's very relaxed about it. The friends I have there who smoke have to drive over to NL to buy it (I guess there are street dealers too), but I've stood in the centre of Antwerp smoking a joint chatting to a police officer, and that anecdote matches up with my friends there who say it's very relaxed.

> I've on multiple occasions been on a UK street, witnessed a very strong smell of weed with police officers walking along near me, and had them do nothing.

Whether or not you get busted depends on the personal opinions of the police officer.

Sure, that's why I wouldn't take the risk myself :)

I hardly ever smoke it in public, and most cops I have come across don't seem to be that relaxed.

> but I've stood in the centre of Antwerp smoking a joint chatting to a police officer

Did you offer him next up?

There are no legal ways to obtain marijuana in Barcelona. If it's Sativex what you're talking about it's not the same and it was a trial on 600 patiens.

The story is naive, particularly coming from the New York Times. The governor in NY has nearly unlimited power to push through legislation with the budget process.

Its a way for a governor with presidential ambition to earn some progressive street cred. Some sort of highly regulated medical pot regime supplied by police seizures sounds like a very minimal step forward.

It's still a step forward. The best way to stop steps forward is to complain when they're made because they're not far enough.

Encourage, instead of discourage.

The article makes him sound like an opportunistic follower.

"the latest of several instances in which he has embarked on a major social policy effort sure to bolster his popularity with a large portion of his political base."

That's politics for you. One of the many reasons it's taken so long to get this far with the legalization effort is that politicians are utterly terrified of being seen as soft on crime or not being for the safety of children or whatever the stupid political buzz-phrase of the moment is that tangentially supports the drug war.

Once more states see how it works out for the few that have dared to step forward, expect the rest to fall in line relatively quickly. The economic benefits alone are impossible to ignore.

"executive action that would allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses"

Because this substance is so dangerous that it may only be used if you're on the verge of dying. "limited use" of course :)

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