Though time ran out on the state legislature to pass marijuana legalization, lawmakers reached an agreement to further decriminalize the drug before the legislative session expired.
The State Senate and Assembly passed a bill on June 20 that would decriminalize possession of two ounces or less or marijuana, which would now be treated as a violation instead of a crime. The bill also establishes procedures for the expunging of arrest records for marijuana misdemeanors.
“In New York State, people of color are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey. “The misdemeanor charge for public view of marijuana possession gives those people convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to housing, access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment, all leading to a potential inability to provide for their families. While this legislation falls short of the goal of legalization of adult-use cannabis, the ability to create a mechanism for expungement, both retroactively and forward-looking, is a step in the right direction in finally ending the heavy-handed war on drugs that has decimated communities of color.”
The bill reduces the penalty to a $50 fine regardless of criminal history for possession under one ounce, and a $200 fine regardless of criminal history for possession between one and two ounces. Possession of more than two ounces of pot will still be a crime.