New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs Bill That Decriminalizes Marijuana

The law, which takes effect in 30 days, would create a process to expunge certain marijana-related offenses from criminal records.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers a speech on the importance of renewable energy in July 2019.
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The law, which takes effect in 30 days, would create a process to expunge certain marijana-related offenses from criminal records.

The state of New York has decriminalized the use of marijuana, per Axios.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Monday, which allows fines for the use of marijuana, but does not consider marijuana usage a criminal offense.

According to WHAM, the new legislation imposes a $50 fine on an individual found in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The fine rises to $200 for any amount of pot between one and two ounces.

The law will also create a mechanism for certain marijuana-related charges to be expunged from criminal records.

“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, according to The Times Union. “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.”

The law does not allow for the recreational usage of marijuana, which WHAM reported was a point of debate in the months leading up to the bill’s passage by the New York State Legislature.

According to The Times Union, the law that the governor signed Monday was a last-ditch effort by Democrats in the state to pass marijuana legislation this session. It was seen as a compromise between Democrats, who said marijuana laws disproportionately impact minorities, and Republicans, who opposed the commercial legalization of the drug.

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In recent years, there has been a push to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana usage for medicinal or recreational usage nationwide. While laws like the one in New York, which will go into effect in 30 days, reduce or eliminate criminal penalties, they do not go as far as to legalize the substance.

According to NORML, an organization that exists to normalize the usage of marijuana, 25 states in the U.S. have enacted some sort of marijuana decriminalization. As NORML notes, states that have a decriminalization of marijuana typically treat marijuana-related offenses like minor traffic law violations.

There are 10 states nationwide where marijuana is legal for both medicinal and recreational uses, per Business Insider.

As Business Insider noted, in signing the Farm Bill last year, the president legalized hemp on a national level. Hemp is a similar plant to marijuana but does not contain the THC compound which is the psychoactive agent found in marijuana, per Business Insider.