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The Assembly Minority Conference

New York: Let’s Punish Law-Abiding Citizens With Backward Policy, Again

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

It seems like New York invents new ways to reward criminals every day. The latest policy concocted by extreme liberals is to give special treatment to those previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses with respect to opening up a state-licensed retail shop. Put another way, if you have been convicted of distributing or possessing marijuana, you are immediately moved to the front of the line in the state licensing process.

In a long list of backward policies that give preferential treatment to criminals—personal electronics for prisoners, the near-elimination of bail, free tuition, wide expansion of parole and others, for example—this is among the most egregious. Logistically speaking, if you followed the law and didn’t sell drugs illegally, you are prohibited from applying for a state license for the time being. In New York, crime literally pays.

Proponents of the proposal will tell you the new policy is a way to compensate for the over-prosecution of drug-related offenses in recent years. This is a fallacy. Let’s be clear, reforming the criminal justice system and ensuring fairness and justice for all is an important part of the Legislature’s work. But, these reforms cannot be accomplished by continually punishing law-abiding citizens. And that is exactly what this policy does.

The Assembly Minority Conference has firmly defended the principles of law and order. They are the bedrock of our democracy and the foundation of the communities we live and work in. While many of those arrested on drug charges are low-level offenders and do not have a history of violence, there are undoubtedly others who contributed to a gang culture that tore through many of the communities this proposal purports to help. Under this proposal, preferential treatment for low-level offenders could also be extended to the worst offenders. This is backward and wholly unfair, particularly to the neighborhoods that are already plagued by increased crime and violence.

New York state’s decision to legalize marijuana comes with numerous question marks to begin with, and there are enough challenges inherent in the proposal without this ridiculous plan. I am fully opposed to any and all measures that reward having broken the law, and as such urge the governor and Legislature to introduce some common sense back into their policy making.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at