New York decriminalizes low-level marijuana offences

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Though New York residents will still have to wait for legal cannabis, the state made a big step forward this week by decriminalizing the plant.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Monday that decriminalizes cannabis use and will expunge criminal record related to cannabis offenses for some people.

The bill, which had been approved by the state legislature earlier this year, will reduce cannabis possession to a misdemeanor subject to a fine and any possession under two ounces will not be punished. Governor Cuomo has previously mentioned how these low-level marijuana charges have unfairly targeted minority groups in the state.

“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” said Cuomo in a statement.

“By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process.”

Advocates in New York welcome the move to lessen the punishments associated with cannabis possessions and use but are eager to remind lawmakers that this needs to be pushed further.

“Police have historically found a way to work around the decriminalization of marijuana,” said Erin George from Citizen Action of New York. She added that even with the new laws people can face probation violations and immigration consequences.

Earlier this year the state of New York was on track to legalize cannabis but unfortunately Cuomo dropped the plan from the budget for the coming year stating that more time was needed for lawmakers to reach an agreement. Hopefully New York will see legal cannabis next year but the bill to decriminalize is at the very least a good start.


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