Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed legislation further decriminalizing marijuana possession in New York. The Democrat says New York's existing marijuana laws disproportionately affect African American and Latino communities.
Cuomo says the new measure will address those disparities by reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine, and by creating a process for people who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to have their records expunged. The penalty would be $50 for possessing less than one ounce of pot or a maximum of $200 for one to two ounces. Alice Green, the executive director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, says the legislation is a positive move but still has concerns.
“Even though it’s a violation, it does give police officers sort of a justification for continuing to stop people in the community and we’re talking about black males in particular,” Green said. “That’s the problem that we still have and don’t see that it can be resolved until there is legalization.”
The legislation takes effect in 30 days.
The legislature did not vote on full-scale marijuana legalization before adjourning in June.