Legislators in Albany passed a bill this week decriminalizing marijuana. The new bill lowers the fines for being caught with a small amount, preventing jail time as a result.
The Democrat-led Senate passed the bill early Thursday evening, 39-23, and the Assembly followed later that night.
Although legislators still have not been able to advance a bill to fully legalize marijuana, the decriminalization bill is seen as a positive step forward, making it so anything up to one ounce of marijuana can only be punished with a fine of up to $50–down from $100– while two ounces can only be punished with a fine of up to $200, eliminating potential jail time.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a statement on Friday called the bill “a long overdue step in delivering justice to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.”
“… We are turning the page on decades of flawed policies that mostly served to incarcerate men and women of color. The convictions, in particular, held many people of color back from accessing jobs, housing, education, and much more, and expunging these records is a good step toward righting past wrongs,” said Adams.
The bill also gets rid of a loophole in the previous marijuana decriminalization bill that fined users for having cannabis in public view and lets people expunge past marijuana convictions, benefitting as many as 600,000 New Yorkers.
“I hope that we can build on this success in the next session, fully legalizing marijuana while imposing safeguards to protect public health and allow competition in a regulated marketplace,” Adams added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law.
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