Smoking Pot in the Capitol

by ANTHONY PAPA

Earlier this week, political activist and comedian Randy Credico engaged in a novel protest and civil disobedience inside of the New York State Capitol building: he smoked a joint. Credico’s protest was aimed directly at the Senate Republicans, who killed a smart proposal to expand the state’s current marijuana decriminalization law. The sensible proposal to reduce the ghastly number of costly, biased and unlawful arrests for marijuana possession was introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and enjoyed the overwhelming support of both drug policy advocates and law enforcement officials from across the state. After learning of the Senate Republicans plan to kill the bill, Credico took action: he went to the Capitol, lit up, and smoked a joint in the door way of the Albany Times Union, located in the press area.

I talked to the flamboyant Credico who said, “I did this to protest the inhumane action of the NYS Senate who refused to pass legislation which the Governor and Assembly proposed.” Credico, who is mulling a run for mayor of New York City is vehemently opposed to current stop and frisk policies conducted in NYC, which resulted in the arrest of over 50,000 individuals last year.

Before lighting up, Credico appeared as a featured guest on the radio show of New York Post Albany Bureau Chief Fred Dicker. Dicker’s studio is located in the Capitol Building, and his show is the most influential in NYS politics. Live on the radio, Credico the audience of his intentions and showed Dicker the marijuana joint. Soon after the show Credico approached a half dozen Republican Senators in the Senate lobby and he asked them “Do I look like a criminal? The Senators shook their heads no. But moments later they were shocked when Credico suddenly reached into his pocket and pulled out a marijuana cigarette and said, “Now I am a criminal because you can see it.” Credico was referring to the current NYS marijuana laws which Gov. Cuomo recently said that his marijuana plan would correct a “blatant inconsistency” in the law that treats the private possession of small amounts of pot — 25 grams or less — as a violation, while the public display of weed carries misdemeanor charges.

About twenty minutes later Credico lit up his joint in an area near the Assembly and the Senate floor on the 3rd floor above the governor’s office, directly across from NYS Attorney General Eric Snyderman’s office. Individuals were astonished when they smelled his ass kicking weed. He then walked towards the doorway of the Albany
Times Union office and blew a few rings of smoke into the office. This was captured on film by Times Union reporter Jimmy Vielkind. Credico exclaimed “This is a crime in NYS!” A voice came from within the office saying, “Oh my GOD, that’s weed!” Credico responded, “This is a crime here; they should make this not a crime.”

Tellingly, Credico was not arrested for his civil disobedience – which is part of Credico’s point. Government studies consistently show that white people – like Credico – are shown to use marijuana at equal or higher rates than Blacks or Latinos, and yet the overwhelming majority of people arrested for marijuana possession in New York are Black and Latino. In New York City, over 50,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession last year alone, making it the number one arrest in the City. Nearly 85% of those arrested are Black or Latino. About half of those arrested – over 25,000 people – are young people between 16 – 21 years old.

As Credico explained to me after his protest, – “Here we have a situation where white guys like me can smoke weed in the heart of the State Capitol and not get arrested, but young Black and Latino kids walking down the street are being racially profiled, unlawfully searched, and illegally arrested for just mere possession of a little bit of pot. How many of those senators have kids who are smoking weed in college or after school? Do they think those kid should be arrested too?”

According to the NY Daily News Gov. Cuomo has stated that the Republicans have sunk to a ‘new low’ over the fight to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in NYS, and that the GOP has buckled under pressure from the ultra-conservative wing of the party in an effort to block the bill. He also warned that opposition to marijuana reform will cost them in November.

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and manager of media relation for the Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com 

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

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