New York Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing – but not Legalizing – Cannabis

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill this morning decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis in the state.

The law, which goes into effect 30 days following its signing today, reduces possession of cannabis to a violation and caps fines for possession as follows:

  • $200 for possessing between one and two ounces
  • $50 for possessing less than an ounce

The law also creates an avenue for those convicted of cannabis-related offenses to have their records expunged and possibly destroyed.

According to a press release, Cuomo states, “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. 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.”

This law follows a failed eleventh-hour effort by the New York state legislature to pass a more comprehensive bill to legalize recreational cannabis use in the state.

While nowhere near as progressive as Illinois's recent law legalizing recreational cannabis, it's still leaps and bounds over Hawaii's barely-there effort, which only allows for possession of less than three grams of marijuana.

This doesn't mean New York is finished trying to legalize cannabis. According to NY State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D), "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."

New York joins 14 other states that have decriminalized, but not legalized, cannabis.

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