UPDATED, 9 p.m. Monday:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing new legislation that would lower the penalty for public possession of marijuana, reducing it from a misdemeanor to a violation.
However, burning marijuana would remain a crime.
Some addiction specialists argue that lessening the penalty for possession will encourage more people to use.
But many Capital Region residents we spoke with say the proposal is a long time coming.
“The problem is the law and the solution is change the law,” said Gov. Cuomo at a press conference Monday.
Under the current law, anyone caught with 25 grams or fewer of marijuana in public view can face a misdemeanor charge.
Anyone caught with that same amount in private, is only subject to a fine.
“I think it is ridiculous the charges that some people get for having a small amount of it,” said Schoharie resident Diane McDermott.
The governor's proposed legislation would change that.
Anyone caught with 25 grams or fewer of marijuana in public or private would only be subject to a maximum fine of $100, eliminating the possibility of carrying around a criminal record.
“The effect of a criminal conviction on a young person can alter the trajectory of their entire life,” the governor said. “And there is no going back.”
Gov. Cuomo called this mainly a New York City problem, where in 2011, there were 49,800 marijuana arrests. The rest of the state accumulated only 3,324, with less than 100 arrests made in the Capital Region.
“I don't think the legislation goes far enough,” said Matt Hughes with NYCR NORML, a group that advocates for the legalization of marijuana.
Hughes said he has seen the benefits in states where it's legal to light up for medicinal purposes.
“The crime in the bars has gone down, there are no issues, people are just friendlier,” Hughes said.
He is not alone in that sentiment.
“I think they should just legalize it, to be completely honest,” said Travis Dunklee of Queensbury.
Many Capital Region residents who spoke with FOX23 Monday night said they did not have a problem with smoking pot as long as smokers are not hurting anyone else.
“Drinking is legalized and that kills more people every year,” McDermott said.
Dunklee agreed, saying, “I have been a paramedic for a long time and I can't think of one EMS call marijuana-related ever.”
A lot of folks are hopeful this will open the door to legalizing medical marijuana in the state.
During the press conference, Governor Cuomo said, “I oppose the medical use of marijuana, it is a position and situation we are reviewing.”
The governor went on to say that it is a separate issue from his proposal on possession.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to lower the penalty for public possession of a small amount of marijuana, reducing it from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Possession of less than 25 grams was reduced to a violation in 1977, subject to a ticket and fine. If the pot is burning or in public view, it rises to a misdemeanor that leads to arrest.
Bloomberg says Monday that Cuomo's proposal mirrors a directive issued to NYPD officers. He says that strikes the right balance and allows police to combat the routine sale and use of marijuana on the streets.
New York City police arrest more than 50,000 people annually on the misdemeanor.
Critics say that's driven by a stop-and-frisk program that targets minorities.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)