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New York State Has Decriminalized Marijuana

Governor Andrew Cuomo logged onto Twitter on Wednesday, August 28 to announce a New York State law has gone into effect which will decriminalize the use of marijuana. A bill that was signed into law 30 days ago has gone into effect, partially decriminalizing marijuana possession–meaning residents across the state can publicly possess or smoke up to 2 ounces of marijuana without criminal penalties.

“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 wrote in his statement. “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.”

Under this new law, residents with low-level marijuana convictions will automatically have their records expunged. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services estimates nearly 14,000 people from the five boroughs and almost 11,000 others statewide will qualify.

On top of that, marijuana possession under two ounces will now be considered a violation instead of a criminal offense. The penalty is $50 for possessing less than an ounce, or a maximum of $200 for 1-2 ounces.

Though this is definitely good news, this decriminalization doesn’t exactly mean we’re home free. This new law allows police officers to take into custody accused violators who have no identification on them or who are from out of state. Selling marijuana also remains a crime–a felony, at that–and police have wide latitude to arrest people they allege possess it with intent to sell.

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