NYPD Ordered to Stop Wrongful Marijuana Charges
In September 2011, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered all NYPD officers to stop charging people with misdemeanor marijuana violations based on improper searches. This could lead to the reduction of tens of thousands of marijuana arrests every year in NYC. Since New York decriminalized small amounts of marijuana over three decades, possessing under 25 grams is only a criminal offense if it is publicly visible. Since the mid-1990s, officers have abused this legal loophole by tricking people – mostly young people of color – into publicly revealing marijuana concealed in a pocket or handbag by demanding they “empty their pockets." The police then make the arrest for “public view” for what should legally be a non-criminal civil citation. The new policy directive comes on the heels of a 2011 DPA report highlighting the enormous costs of marijuana arrests in New York and a public pressure campaign led by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform (IJJRA) and Alternatives, and VOCAL New York.
The Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Act of 2009 – Bringing Real Reform to the Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws
In April 2009, Governor David Paterson signed legislation enacting real reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws (RDL). The changes include eliminating mandatory minimums and returning judicial discretion in most (but not all) drug cases; reforming sentences; expanding drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration; and allowing resentencing of some currently incarcerated people who are serving sentences under the old laws.
With these reforms, New York begins its shift away from the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the failed criminal justice model of drug policy they represent, and toward an approach to drug policy that emphasizes health and public safety.
Syringe Access: Conforming the Criminal Code with Public Health Code
We did it! The syringe access legislation DPA and harm reduction advocates across NY State fought nearly two years for was finally signed into law . In a bi-partisan effort, and with large margins in both the New York State Assembly and Senate, the bill became law on July 30, 2010, and went into effect on October 30, 2010. The bill includes 3 components vital for effective syringe access programs:
Makes possession of residue in or on a syringe legal when that syringe is properly obtained via a syringe access program sanctioned by section 3381 in the Public Health Law. This includes one of the 18 syringe exchanges in NY State, or through an Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) provider.
Makes clear in the NY State Penal Law that a person participating in a syringe access program of the Public Health Law can legally possess a sterile syringe.
Requires that the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) periodically inform law enforcement and prosecutors of the rights of syringe access participants to possess sterile syringes and syringes with residue that were obtained through syringe access programs. DPA will continue working with our allies to ensure the proper implementation of this law by holding the police and prosecutors accountable for any actions that would impede the access to clean syringes and safe disposal of used ones.