New York Governor Signs Bill Reducing Marijuana Penalties, Allows for Expungements

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed a bill into law that reduces the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, while also allowing for the expungement of some past offenses.

The law – which takes effect within 30 days – changes an unlawful possession of marijuana statute into a violation that’s similar to a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal charge, reports the Associated Press. Under the new law, the maximum penalty is $50 for possessing less than one ounce of pot and a maximum of $200 for between one and two ounces. The law also requires that records tied to low-level marijuana cases be automatically sealed and creates a process for expungement.

“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,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. Advocates for legal marijuana acknowledge the law is a step forward but also say it falls short of addressing a web of negative consequences that come with keeping marijuana illegal.

“Police have historically found a way to work around the decriminalization of marijuana,” said Erin George, of Citizen Action of New York.

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