Lodestar News


New Yorkers may be surprised last Monday to see the direction that the state had gone with the legality of cannabis. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that severely lessens the punishment for petty amounts of possession. However, they aren’t all that happy about it.

Given that New York City has recently put a ban on CBD in foods/drinks, the image that New York has for marijuana is getting rather unclear, and that’s already a problem.

New Penalties

The bill claims that, after August 27th, a $50 ticket will be given to those with under an ounce of cannabis, while a $200 ticket will be given to those who have 1-2 ounces. A substantial difference compared to other parts of the country that can pay up to $5000 for first time offenses. 

Marijuana convictions that are low-level/nonviolent are also expunged.

What’s Wrong?

Advocates of legalization claim that, while this is a step forward, the major problems of prohibition are simply ignored. New York Drug Policy Alliance’s Deputy Director Melissa Moore said, “This bill fails to address the collateral damages of prohibition, including affected individuals’ access to employment and housing, as well as address family separations, immigration rights, and other avenues to economic security. Given the extensive, life-changing inequities created by discriminatory and draconian enforcement policies, true justice requires the allocation of tax revenue to community reinvestment programs for impacted communities. We are incredibly proud of our communities and supporters for generating the momentum necessary to force legislators to pass a law authorizing automatic expungement.”

The simple fact is that people given the ticket still risk probation, which, if certain communities are continuously targeted, then prohibition is still serving the same purpose that the War on Drugs had started.

Probation and immigration consequences still stand strong, says Moore.

“Decriminalization alone is not enough to deal with the full impact of marijuana prohibition and gives law enforcement discretion. Addressing the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement by comprehensively legalizing and reinvesting in communities is what policymakers need to deliver on. While it is disappointing that our leaders have once again failed to prioritize racial justice in New York, we will continue to fight on behalf of comprehensive reforms.”

Convictions

At least 24,000 people will have their records expunged, according to New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. And an even bigger 200,000 convictions that are low-level offenses will be sealed.

Conclusion

Cuomo’s goal was to have marijuana fully legalized in New York by 2019, but fell short due to Democratic parties not reaching full consensus during the end of the legislation period. A growing concern for people like Melissa Moore who believe it’s a “slowly but surely” ordeal.