Ganja users get relief with new law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). .
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the implementation of the Marijuana Decriminalization Law marks “a new chapter in the criminal justice system.”

“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,” said Cuomo, about the new law that went into effect on Wednesday, in a statement.

“Today is the start of a new chapter in the criminal justice system,” he added. “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.

“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,” the governor continued.

On July, 29, Cuomo signed legislation, S.6579A/A.8420, further decriminalizing marijuana use in New York State.

“New York’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,” Cuomo said.

The governor first proposed the further decriminalization of marijuana in 2013, and again in the 2020 budget. The bill took effect 30 days after becoming law.

“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”, Cuomo said.

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,” she said. “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 said the 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,” he said. “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.”

Cuomo said the legislation makes 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.

The law also creates “a process for individuals with certain marijuana convictions to have their records expunged both retroactively and for future convictions,” Cuomo said.

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