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New York to Seal Convictions for Small Amounts of Marijuana

The state of New York is abuzz about a new law that eases penalties for low-level marijuana possession and expunges thousands of low-level cannabis convictions. The new law gives fines instead of jail time of up to 90 days for those carrying small amounts of pot in public. 

“The new decriminalization law also reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession so that anyone — regardless of their criminal history — caught with less than an ounce of weed will be fined $50, while a maximum fine of $200 will be issued to anyone with one to two ounces,” rollingstone.com reports. “Lastly, the new law establishes a path for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers saddled with low-level marijuana records to have their records automatically expunged of crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.”

Over 202,000 convictions in New York — from the late 1970s through mid-June 2019 — will be sealed, and 24,409 people will no longer have a record of crime, Janine Kava, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services spokeswoman, told CNN.

Through the years, criminal penalties for marijuana use in New York fell disproportionately on blacks and Hispanics. “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,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the law July 29, 2019. “Today is the start of a new chapter in the criminal justice system.”

Critics say the law doesn’t go far enough because it is still a violation. It “does not remove the odor of marijuana as justification for a stop or search,” and the accused can also be arrested and taken to a police station for questioning, newsweek.com reports. 

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Sources: Rolling Stone, CNN, Newsweek

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