- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

New York should eliminate penalties currently handed down to individuals caught possessing small amounts of marijuana, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, citing a “dramatic shift in public opinion” evidenced by pot prohibitions being reined in from coast to coast.

The governor’s recommendation to remove criminal penalties appeared buried in a 383-page book containing his 2017 plans distributed Wednesday evening among the state legislature, New York Daily News reported.

“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” the Democrat wrote on page 191 of the report.

Specifically, Mr. Cuomo said New York state should remove “the criminal penalties that too often result in the over-prosecution and jailing of nonviolent individuals.”

People caught with small amounts of marijuana wouldn’t be prosecuted under Mr. Cuomo’s plan, but dealing weed would still be a criminal offense.

Nearly 90 percent of pot violations recorded during 2016 were for possession and not sale, according to the governor’s report.

“This measure reflects the national trend and dramatic shift in public opinion,” Mr. Cuomo wrote. “Whereas other states have sought the full legalization of marijuana, this legislative change will specifically affect individual users and not reduce penalties on those who illegally supply and sell marijuana.”

Despite the shift, however, Mr. Cuomo’s proposal will likely face opposition in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate, Daily News reported.

“Our kids are getting eaten up by these drugs,” state Sen. Martin Golden, Brooklyn Republican, told the newspaper.

“[Mr. Cuomo] just wants to go so far to the left. I don’t get it,” said Mr. Golden, a retired cop who called the governor’s proposal a “bad idea,” according to the newspaper.

Eight states and the nation’s capital have legalized recreational marijuana within recent years, and Democratic state Sen. Martin Looney told The Wall Street Journal Thursday he wants Connecticut to become the ninth.

“There seems to be a national trend moving in that direction,” he told the newspaper.

Indeed, the results of a survey released Wednesday by Pew Research Center indicated that more than two-thirds of the nation’s police officers believe marijuana should be legal for either personal or medical use, while about half of civilians believe weed should be legalized across the board.

Mr. Cuomo has previously opposed legalizing recreational marijuana in the Empire State, but unsuccessfully tried to decriminalize possession in 2012, Daily News reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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