News10NBC Investigates: Here's what a non-criminal amount of marijuana would look like

July 23, 2019 11:28 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York state is trying to figure out what it wants to do with marijuana. Even though 11 states have made recreational marijuana legal, it is still illegal here. 

In June, state lawmakers voted to decriminalize it. 

But when News10NBC shows you what that change would look like, you may wonder what difference it's going to make. 

When it comes to marijuana, legalize means grow it, sell it, tax it and use it without getting in trouble. 

What our lawmakers did was increase the amount a person can have without getting charged with a misdemeanor. News10NBC wanted to find out how big that change is, and tonight we can show you the pile. 

News10NBC got help from Mary Kruger with Roc NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, and Alyssa Sprague at Next Level CBD on South Clinton Avenue. 

Our test used buds of hemp, which are legal in New York but similar in size and weight to marijuana. 

Sprague measured 27 grams in a plastic cup. Right now, possessing anything under that amount is not a crime. 

"It would be a violation if you had it in your pocket," Kruger said. "If it was not in public sight."

A violation is a ticket. It's not a misdemeanor, which is a crime. The bill passed by state lawmakers doubles the amount you can have before it becomes a crime. 

"This bill would increase that to two ounces?" News10NBC asked Kruger.  

"To two ounces," she answered. 

"Can you show me what two ounces look like?" News10NBC asked Sprague. 

Sprague started measuring and then poured out the two ounces on the countertop. The amount looked like it could fill two sandwich bags. 

"That looks like a pretty good size quantity," News10NBC said. 

"That's a lot of weed," Kruger replied. 

Here's the other thing. 

If you choose to have or consume a small amount of marijuana in public and you are caught today, police could charge you with a misdemeanor. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, consuming or displaying a small amount of marijuana in public will become a violation. 

But all these changes are still not enough for people like Kruger who want marijuana legalized. 

"Actual decriminalization would be it's okay to grow the plant, it's okay to sell the plant, it's okay to consume the plant in spaces that are designated for consumption. None of that is happening with this bill," she said. "Folks are still able to be arrested depending on law enforcement's discretion."

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "So if the governor signs this bill and police find somebody in possession of marijuana, they'll still get a ticket?"

Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode: "Yes, it'll still be considered an arrest, an arrestable offense where we can put you in handcuffs, put you in a police car, we would still do the paperwork. The only thing is on your record it would show a violation versus a misdemeanor." 

In Monroe County, at the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley, marijuana violations are not prosecuted. 

VanBrederode is the head of the chief's association in Monroe County. He and other chiefs have serious concerns about what legalizing marijuana will do to impaired driving and mental health. 

Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode: "I still think we're on the pathway to legalizing it. But now, as a compromise, they came up with - you can possess more of it before it becomes a crime."

The governor has not signed the bill yet. We contacted his office and spokesman Jason Conwall wrote in an email that "the bill is under review." 

The governor's office says Cuomo supports decriminalization and proposed the idea in 2013. 

At a news conference on June 19, Cuomo said, "Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by-laws governing marijuana for far too long and it has to end."

Click here for our full report on how this bill really changes peoples' lives. 


Berkeley Brean

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