ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law that will decriminalize small amounts of cannabis.
The bill to decriminalize cannabis will make minor possession a violation punishable by a ticket. The fine for possession of up to one ounce is $50 and $200 for possession ranging from over one ounce to two ounces. The new law will take effect on August 27.
The new law also presents the opportunity for individuals previously convicted of low-level cannabis possession to have their records expunged. Over 360,000 individuals were charged with cannabis possession from 2008-2017.
“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,” said Cuomo.
People of color are much more likely to be charged with cannabis possession despite using the drug at about the same rates as caucasians. Cuomo said the new law will help address the disparity in arrests.
“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 said in a statement.
New York has legalized cannabis for medicinal use and momentum has been building for recreational legalization. Gov. Cuomo, initially a staunch opponent to cannabis reform, including medicinal use, has embraced recreational cannabis in the last year. In December he said recreational legalization was one of his top legislative priorities and linked tax revenues from sales as a way to fund repairs on New York City’s subway system. Efforts to legalize recreational use failed earlier this year and it is unclear when it will be taken up again by lawmakers.
Despite the setback, New York residents are largely supportive of cannabis legalization. A Siena Research Institute Poll conducted last month found that 55 percent of New York residents supported recreational cannabis legalization while 40 percent opposed.