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Two different rules for pot possession being considered for NYC, upstate

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Assembly's top Democrat is defending a plan to relax marijuana possession laws in New York City, but not elsewhere in the state.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said a plan promoted by lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is meant to address "stop and frisk'' abuses by New York City police, who can charge someone with a higher crime -- a misdemeanor instead of a violation -- if they remove marijuana from their pockets and place it into public view. Lawmakers and Cuomo have said minorities are especially targeted by the practice.

"It has been done in the past if you show the reason why you are doing it,'' Silver said of the idea.

So, someone upstate could, if the deal happens, be charged with a higher marijuana possession crime than someone upstate or on Long Island if police engage in stop and frisk? "That's correct, but they don't. They don't,'' he said of the police action that he said is unique to New York City. [The amount being considered is about a half-ounce of marijuana.]

As for the state budget talks, which is being slowed by non-fiscal issues such as the stop and frisk provision and an effort to raise the minimum wage, legislative leaders emerged from Cuomo's office again this morning with no deals.

"It's a giant budget,'' Silver said. "There are a lot of issues."

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he now expects budget bills to be introduced Wednesday. Last week, Senate officials said bills would have to be introduced by tonight in order to age them for three days for passage Friday. Now, the day-of-the-week counting is changing so that if a bill is introduced one minute before midnight tonight the clock, for the aging purpose, will have considered that minute to count for a full day. [Such has really always been the practice, so it was confusing why Senate officials this week were singing a different tune about how Albany counts its days.]

Each day has a fun new description by legislative leaders to describe the state of things; Cuomo has not made a public appearance since last week to talk about things, bypassing the usual gaggle of reporters hanging around outside his office to catch officials as they come from his office.

On Monday, Silver talked of a "shopping cart'' where items are put in and taken out depending on their costs. On Tuesday, Skelos was more product-specific. "Some of them are still sticking,'' Skelos said of differences at the budget table. "But we're trying to get rid of the crazy clue and narrow it down to a positive result.''

One thing the sides say is not happening: messages of necessity. That's the process whereby a governor can ignore the three-day aging process and permit a bill to be introduced minutes before lawmakers take up the legislation. "We're not going to have a message of necessity,'' said Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat.

The message of necessity was last used -- critics say abused -- when Cuomo used one to push through a gun control bill in January that the public, and lawmakers, were given no chance to read before passage.


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.

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.

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 |

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 |