By Michelle Deal Winfield
On Wednesday, February 27, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to call on the New York State legislature to pass laws to legalize recreational marijuana.
Testifying in favor of this proposal was Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance who’d been invited by the Council to discuss the issue.
“Last year, my office prosecuted 603 marijuana cases and this year we have prosecuted just 13 cases,” Vance said. After being questioned further, he added, “My office has decided to devote its resources to enforce public safety. Selling drugs is still an offense and we will prosecute. We do not want to waste money and take NYPD officers off their patrols for minor marijuana offenses.”
Vance also noted, “There are tests to detect alcohol-impaired driving. Unfortunately, there is no scientific test for Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, marijuana.”
After thanking Vance for his candor and willingness to review recent marijuana laws passed in other states, Committee Chairperson Donovan Richards, Jr. confirmed that the proposed legal age to possess marijuana would be 21 years of age.
Richards also spoke in favor of the legislation, arguing that it’s predominantly been black and brown New Yorkers who have been arrested.
He said, “In the past, people of color have been arrested, lost their jobs and have criminal records for possessing marijuana. In 1993, the arrest records for marijuana-related charges were overwhelming of black and Latino men. The arrest rate was 20.9 times higher than the arrest for whites.”
Later in the proceedings, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, fresh from his win of the special election for NYC Public Advocate, also spoke.
“The money should not go to the MTA,” he said. We should consider using the revenue for the community affected by these problems.”
But Council Member Chaim M. Deutsch from Brooklyn said the bill shouldn’t be passed just yet.
“This is crazy! We have many unanswered questions. Let’s not rush legalizing marijuana until we get answers,” he said. Deutsch expressed concerns that the Council should deal with the problems of unfair treatment of its residents, testing procedures of THC and proposed regulations of legalizing marijuana.