Governor Cuomo Signs Cannabis Decriminalization Legislation

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation to further decriminalize cannabis possession and use in the state.

In 1977, New York decriminalized the possession of fewer than 25 grams of cannabis and reduced the penalty to a $100 fine, though public possession remained a misdemeanor,

On Monday, Cuomo signed S06579 and A08420, a pair of companion bills written to amend current criminal, penal, and public health laws and reduce penalties for cannabis possession.

The state legislature approved the bills in June.

Under the new law, the penalty for the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is reduced to a $50 fine, and $200 for up to two ounces, regardless of criminal history.

“This law is an important step in righting decades of injustice caused by the state’s current drug laws,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement. “Decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records for those with low level offenses will go a long way towards helping our communities, and especially people of color, who have been devastated by them.”

Heastie says that by removing the barriers and stigma that are associated with criminal records, the path can be cleared for many New Yorkers to find jobs and housing and live successful, productive lives.

The new law also establishes a process for individuals who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis to have their records expunged.

“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. “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.”

With the governor’s signature in place, the new legislation will take effect in thirty days.