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Cuomo signs legislation decriminalizing marijuana use

Press Release

Mon, Jul 29th 2019 01:15 pm

Reduces unlawful possession of marijuana to violation punishable by a fine

Creates process for individuals convicted of certain marijuana offenses to have records expunged

Governor: ‘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’

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday signed legislation (S.6579A/A.8420) further decriminalizing marijuana use in New York. His camp said the state’s existing marijuana laws “disproportionately affect African American and Latino communities, and this legislation will address those racial and ethnic disparities by reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine, and by creating a process for individuals who have been convicted for possessing small amounts of marijuana to have their records expunged.”

The bill will take effect 30 days after becoming law.

The governor first proposed the further decriminalization of marijuana in 2013, and again in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

"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," Cuomo said. "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."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Decriminalizing marijuana is an essential part of reforming our state's broken justice system. For too long, communities of color have been disproportionately targeted and negatively impacted. The Senate Democratic majority will continue our efforts for full legalization and regulation of marijuana, and today's decriminalization is a good first step."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, said, "This law is an important step in righting decades of injustice caused by the state's current drug laws. Decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records for those with low-level offenses will go a long way towards helping our communities, and especially people of color, who have been devastated by them. By removing the barriers and stigma that come with these records, we clear the path for many New Yorkers to find a job, housing, and go on to live successful and productive lives." 

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-141, said, "For too long, communities of color have been the target of discriminatory criminal justice policies and have suffered serious consequences for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, while others were never arrested or charged. By decriminalizing marijuana use in New York once and for all, we are ending this repressive cycle that unfairly targets certain communities. I thank the governor for signing this bill and for taking this critical step forward in the name of equality."

Cuomo’s team said this legislation would make marijuana enforcement fairer and more equitable by:

•Reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine and removing criminal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana under two ounces; and

•Creating a process for individuals with certain marijuana convictions to have their records expunged both retroactively and for future convictions.

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