New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that decriminalized possession and use of recreational cannabis in New York on July 29, 2019.
This measure goes into effect on August 29, 2019.
The new law reduces possession of under two ounces (56.7 grams) of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a citation, punishable by a maximum $50 fine. A second violation within three years of the first offense carries a maximum $200 fine, while a third violation within three years results in a maximum $250 fine and a jail term of up to 15 days.
Additionally, the bill enables individuals who have been convicted of marijuana crimes—that would now be classified as non-criminal violations—to have such convictions automatically expunged. Not only does this provision apply retroactively, but also for future convictions.
According to the FBI, more than 360,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in the state between 2008 and 2017. Most of these arrested individuals are minorities, specifically African Americans and Latinx Americans.
The new law, however, doesn’t decriminalize marijuana sales or distribution.
Lastly, the bill adds cannabis to the “smoking” definition under New York health laws, so that smoking pot in areas that also prohibit smoking tobacco isn’t allowed.
Despite decriminalizing marijuana possession, Governor Cuomo’s goal of the 2019 legislative period to pass a legalization bill failed. He claimed the profit from taxing cannabis could provide much needed financial assistance—estimated up to $3.5 billion annually—to subway system upgrades and other city-related issues.
If you have been charged with a cannabis possession or interested in expunging a possession conviction in Rochester, contact King Law today at (585) 270-8882 and request a free case review.