While it wasn’t exactly the expansion marijuana advocates desired in New York, the state took a significant step toward marijuana reform nonetheless in the closing moments of its legislative session. Lawmakers agreed to further decriminalize cannabis in New York and automatically expunge low-level marijuana offenses across the state. The bill will head to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law.
This is no doubt a big deal for New Yorkers. Possession up to two ounces will now be considered a violation, rather than a crime. Those caught with less than an ounce will face a $50 fine while up to two ounces will net a $200 penalty.
“This is not the final step, but it will lay the groundwork for full decriminalization and legalization,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement.
The measure was the state legislature’s apparent Plan B after talks stalled, and eventually crumbled, around legalizing cannabis for adult-use in New York. Gov. Cuomo had made grand gestures toward pushing through such legislation, and some even thought there was a possibility of a last-second deal, but nothing of that nature came to fruition.
Cuomo was high on the decriminalization bill, saying in an interview with WMAC this will make a big difference for those unfairly punished by the criminal justice system.
“It does a lot, makes a major change,” Cuomo said in the radio interview. “It makes the situation much better especially for the black and brown community that has paid such a high price.”