Legalization support for marijuana is increasing, and New York has taken the next step to further decriminalizing marijuana by reducing the penalties associated with minor marijuana convictions. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed this bill in July, but it went into effect August 28, significantly impacting thousands in New York.
Reducing the Penalties
Under the new law, possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana is no longer considered a criminal penalty. The penalty for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is reduced from $150 to $50. On the other hand, the maximum fine for the possession of between 1 and 2 ounces of marijuana is $200, regardless of criminal history.
Aside from smaller fines, the state also plans to expunge nearly 160,000 convictions. That means certain people will have no criminal record within New York. According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, 10,872 individuals in New York City will automatically have no criminal record. The rest of the state will see an estimated 13,537 people will have no criminal record after this.
A Clean Slate
The majority of people affected by these low-level drug convictions have longtime been people of color. In February, a study from John Jay College found that “blacks and Hispanics consistently had higher rates of arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession compared to whites.”
Those lucky enough to have these records sealed would mean their previous convictions would not show up in most background checks, according to state officials.