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Jun 25, 2019 3:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Passes Law Further Decriminalizing Marijuana

Jun 26, 2019 11:12 AM

New York State lawmakers passed legislation this week further decriminalizing marijuana after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo came to terms with the fact that his plan to legalize recreational use of the drug would not garner enough support to be approved this year.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said that the revised bill eliminates the “public view” statute and prohibits law enforcement officers from charging individuals with misdemeanor possession charges, regardless of quantity.

Under the legislation, offenders found to be in possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana will instead be charged a $50 fine. Those found in possession of 1 to 2 ounces would be charged with a second-degree violation punishable by a fine of no more than $200.

Additionally, the bill calls for the government to expunge the records of previous violation-level marijuana-related arrests—a measure that Mr. Thiele said will help low-level offenders “take back their futures.”

He explained that those arrested on minor possession charges often lose their jobs, homes or even custody of their children, and may become ineligible for student loans.

“It’s a step away from criminalization and having a really negative effect on people’s lives because they were caught smoking a joint,” he said. “I think most people see the legislation as a good thing—something that will be beneficial for a lot of people with prior convictions.”

During a briefing with reporters at the State Capitol on Friday, Mr. Cuomo said that it was clear that the proposal to legalize marijuana would not pass, calling the decriminalization his “backup plan.”

“It was clear that we didn’t have the votes for the legalization,” he said.

“I think the push-back was probably greater than the governor anticipated it would be,” Mr. Thiele added on Tuesday. He pointed to education and law enforcement communities, noting that the vast majority of them opposed the governor’s legalization efforts.

In the meantime, Mr. Cuomo said that the decriminalization legislation—which he said he first proposed back in 2013—would help end racial disparity in criminal enforcement.

“To me, it was an obvious act of justice,” Mr. Cuomo said of the legislation. “… We got it done, and it’s a great step forward.”

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Smoke away andrew and fred...
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