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New York Expands Marijuana Decriminalization After Bid To Legalize Pot Fails

Marijuana has not been legalized in New York -- but soon it will no longer be a crime if you are a possession of smaller amounts. Photo Credit: Pixabay
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins Photo Credit: Daily Voice file

Marijuana has not been legalized in New York -- but soon it will no longer be a crime if you are a possession of smaller amounts.

State Senators approved legislation late Thursday, June 20 to decriminalize its use.

The new law could eventually clear marijuana conviction records for tens of thousands of people and make future violations for possessing small amounts of weed punishable by a $50 fine.

Senate Democratic leaders said the legislation aims to address racial disparities in antiquated marijuana drug laws.

"Communities of color have borne the brunt of New York State’s marijuana drug laws. Our justice system directly reflects who we are as a society and that is why the Senate Majority is taking action to fix this broken system ," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers said. "This legislation is marking a momentous first step in addressing the racial disparities caused by the war on drugs ."

Sen. Jamaal Bailey of the Bronx, the bill's sponsor, said, "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."

Decriminalization of marijuana, under Senate Bill 6579A, will:

  • Decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine.
  • Establish procedures for automatic record expungement both retroactively and for future convictions.
  • Remove criminal penalties (since a violation is not a crime) for possession of any amount of marijuana under two ounces.
  • Reduce 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.
  • Add marijuana to the definition of “smoking” under the Public Health Law so that smoking marijuana will be prohibited wherever smoking tobacco is prohibited.

Sen. Stewart=Cousins added: "The Senate Majority continues to move forward on full legalization."

Earlier Daily Voice coverage of the marijuana legalization bill failing can be found by clicking here.

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