Marijuana decriminalization in New York has taken affect. The law downgrades the criminal penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a fine. The law also allows for possession of less than 2 ounces without criminal penalties. There is potential for some individuals with past marijuana convictions to have their records cleared.
“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Cuomo stated last month after signing the legislation.
The state of NY failed to legalize recreational marijuana use in June of 2019; they have continued efforts. This decriminalization will end low level prosecution of marijuana related offenses; however, this does not mean people cannot be arrested for it. The same communities that have been affected by discrimination and profiling can still be arrested by a police officer for investigation. A first offense is punishable by a fine, less than $100. This still leaves the opportunity to be targeted, interrogated, and possibly incriminated because of the grey area around policing this matter.
People of New York are allowed to possess some marijuana, but they cannot buy, sell, or trade it. This provides all types of challenges and uncertainty for law enforcement. It is however a step forward, but it is only a step and certainly not a great leap. Until adult use recreational markets become regulated we shouldn’t let off any pressure regarding the subject. The goal is full scale legalization, and nothing less.
Legalizing adult use cannabis and structuring a safe market place for consumers is necessary to end small level marijuana related arrests.