Cannabis has been decriminalized in New York State after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on the new legislation last month.
The new law has converted the possession of under two ounces of cannabis from a misdemeanor into a violation. As a result, offenders will receive a ticket to appear in court, followed by a $50 fine if convicted of possession of less than one ounce, and a $200 fine if convicted of possessing less than two ounces.
Although the drug is still considered an illegal substance per New York state law, if caught, individuals will have their stash confiscated and marked as evidence. Unlike before, the charge will no longer create or show up on a criminal record.
Governor Cuomo released a statement about the new legislation:“For too long communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the life-long consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction. Today is the start of a new chapter in the criminal justice system. By providing individuals a path to have their records expunged, including those who have been unjustly impacted based on their race or ethnicity, and reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a fine, we are giving many New Yorkers the opportunity to live better and more productive, successful and healthier lives.”
What about New Yorkers convicted before the new law took effect? They can rest a little easier — especially the ones who had minor pot convictions before August 29.
“Being that this new legislation decriminalizes marijuana and changes it from a misdemeanor offense to a violation level offense, it would not appear on your criminal history,” Captain Kate Newcomb with the Broome County Sheriff’s Office told WBNG.
The changes come on the heels of the state’s failed attempts earlier this year to legalize the drug. “This law is long overdue, and it is a significant step forward in our efforts to end this repressive cycle and ultimately mend our discriminatory criminal justice process once and for all,” stated Cuomo.
Despite sweeping cannabis law reforms at the state level, cannabis remains prohibited under federal law and continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA.