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Minority caucus pushes lesser penalties for marijuana possession

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The head of an influential group of minority state legislators says the issue of relaxing sanctions for small amounts of marijuana should be treated separately from efforts to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

"I think they're two separate issues, both very significant issues and both we have to deal with now,'' said Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. He said the efforts by advocates for both measures would have a better chance of passage if they are dealt with separately.

The lawmaker made his comments after he and fellow caucus members held an event at the Capitol this afternoon pushing a bill to make it a violation -- instead of a misdemeanor -- for possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana that is in public view. They say police, especially in New York City, disproportionately target black and Hispanic young people on the streets for marijuana possession arrests -- legal actions that stay with the individuals as they get older and try to get jobs or apply for college financial aid.

The minority caucus said the 44,600 marijuana misdemeanor arrests last year accounted for one-ninth of all arrests in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo again today signaled his support of the marijuana public view push, but again said he opposes use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Medical marijuana backers have questioned the logic of relaxing possession laws while at the same time not making it easier for certain people -- such as cancer patients on chemotherapy or those suffering long-term chronic pain -- to use marijuana instead of at-times addictive pain killers.

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Albany | Andrew Cuomo
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

[email protected]


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

[email protected]


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | [email protected]


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | [email protected]

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