In a huge victory for both marijuana advocates and criminal justice reform, 160,000 people in New York state will have their marijuana convictions overturned. This comes as an increasing number of states have legalized the drug.
According to the New York Times, the move is part of a new law decriminalizing marijuana in New York, which took effect on Wednesday, and will result in a huge number of low-level marijuana offenses being expunged from people’s records.
Furthermore, over 23,000 of those individuals will now have no criminal record in New York whatsoever after the changes, according to a spokeswoman for the State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Great news: About 160,000 People in New York to See Their Marijuana Convictions Disappear https://t.co/O8z8QLU0XN
— Asad Brooklyn (@DandiaAsad) August 30, 2019
The types of convictions being overturned often impact minorities at higher rates than others and can make it difficult for people to find work or move forward in life long after the offense has occurred and been punished. A statement released by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo read, in part:
“For too long communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the lifelong consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction.”
New York's marijuana decriminalization law goes into effect today, providing individuals a path to have their records expunged.
For too long, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana. This law is long overdue. pic.twitter.com/MLmHDSfW0I
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 28, 2019
According to a non-profit called the Drug Policy Alliance the number of people affected by the law change could actually be much higher than the current estimate.
Both how marijuana possession is treated legally and the size of fines has changed under the new law. Possession of a small amount of marijuana was previously a Class B misdemeanor in New York State. No longer.
According to the New York Times:
“Under the new law, the classification of the penalty for possessing between one and two ounces of marijuana has been lowered to a violation, and fines have been capped at $200.”
Marijuana reform has been a gradual process in the United States but it’s one that appears to be accelerating as decriminalization has been followed by full legalization in an increasingly number of states. Expunging marijuana convictions is a good start but one has to hope that similar positive action will be taken to free those currently imprisoned on marijuana-related charges and something done to compensate those who lost years of their lives to convictions related to a plant that will soon be found in consumer products far and wide.
h/t: New York Times