A look at = PrisonRoster records for New York will reveal that on an average, 17,5000 people get arrested every year on marijuana charges. The cannabis issue includes things like bringing in private players into the loop and attracting more voters, but of late it has become not only a Democrat-Republican, but also an intergenerational war.
- What changed?
Since September 2018, people caught smoking marijuana in public have been handed tickets, much like the ones issued for traffic violations, instead of being arrested on the spot as it used to happen previously. These tickets mean the person issued to has to appear in court and issue a plea. The fines would be decided upon by the judges. However, in case of an open arrest warrant, the person being on probation or parole, lack of identification, a conviction for a violent crime, and is considered a public threat (for example, while being behind the wheels), there would be necessary arrests.
As of today, it is legal to have over 0.3% THC only for medical use. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the active agent in the drug producing the high on the consumer. Over the years, the potency of the cultivated weeds has been increased, with it rising to 9.6 percent from 3.7 percent in 2013 from the early 1990s.
The medical usage was allowed in New York only in 2016, and is applicable only for the non-smoked method of cannabis consumption. This is for the treatment of a number of diseases on a state list, like cancer and glaucoma. Because of this, 5 private marijuana growers were awarded contracts allowing each of them to operate four dispensaries.
There are a lot of concerns regarding the question of allowing it for public recreational use, starting from lack of universal testing methods to an insufficient number of laboratories testing products by the new standards.
The sale of marijuana, except for in state-sanctioned dispensaries for medical uses as mentioned above, is strictly prohibited, with even less than 2 ounces sale being classified as a class B misdemeanor. Any sale to a minor qualifies as a Class D misdemeanor. As of now, there are only 21 active dispensaries allowed to sell in the entire state of New York, with five in New York City, which includes a luxury store opening recently in Fifth Avenue.
Cultivation of marijuana is tricky ground, with a lot of negotiation being done on a daily basis between the federal laws and the newly modified state laws. By and large, cultivation of marijuana is illegal in New York. But since medical usage is allowed, and private usage is a shady area yet to be fully mapped, quality seeds can be found online. Because growing less than 50 plants is let off lightly, and because the charges slapped are directly proportional to the number of plants grown, many people have taken to growing very less number of high potency plants.
The possession laws are quite elaborate. all parts of the plant come under this, as well as seeds, the extracted resin, and any possible compound manufactured or derived from any part of this plant, its seeds, and the resin. Possession of fewer than 25 grams counts as a violation and doesn’t appear in criminal records. The fines start with $100 for a fresh case in three years, and increases gradually, with the third conviction attracting a 15-day jail penalty as well.
Burning of any amount of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, would appear in criminal records and the offender can spend up to six months in jail. Any amount higher than 8 ounces would be considered a felony, and the offender can attract a maximum prison sentence of up to 7 years.
- Where it stands
In spite of much hope being put into it, cannabis legalization wasn’t included in the very recent $175 billion 2019 budget. The Governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, called marijuana a ‘gateway drug’ in 2017, but it has been a big turnaround for him since. It might also have to do with trying to salvage the increasingly unstable Republican situation in the face of the upcoming elections – New York is a blue state after all. Cynthia Nixon, the Democrat candidate, has made full legalization of cannabis a major point in her campaign, and it is bound to make the voters sit up and take notice, the younger ones especially.
Recreational use of cannabis is legal in quite a few of the other American states, but New York has always been a major indicator of the direction in which the wind will blow not only in the US, but also worldwide. While views on drugs have always been approached with caution across civilizations since the beginning, what this debate has brought to the fore yet again is the issue of treating users with basic human dignity and approaching this as a social, rather than individual, problem.