New York Decriminalizes Cannabis and Expunges Records

New York votes to decriminalize marijuana and expunge the records of thousand of people convicted of low-level cannabis crimes.

After New York failed to legalize adult-use cannabis earlier this year, the legislature scrambled to try and get it done before the session ended on Wednesday, June 19th. It failed again, but it did accomplish something important for the people of New York by further decriminalizing cannabis. Now possession of two ounces of cannabis is no longer a crime, just a violation. Also, mass expungement for low-level cannabis related crimes, such as possession, will occur across the state. Many thousands of New Yorkers have lived with trivial possession convictions that can prevent them from getting jobs or admittance into schools. It is a huge step in cannabis reform for New York.

For the most part, the state legislature backs the idea of having a commercial recreational market, but it seems that too many finite details could not be agreed upon in time. In one final ditch effort over the weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo got the State Assembly and Senate together in hopes of coming to an agreement on a bill that could be voted on before the Wednesday deadline. With anticipation building over the 4/20 month-long cannabis celebration coming next year, Cuomo was likely hoping his state could capitalize upon it by having taxable adult-use cannabis available for sale. Instead, many of New York’s cannabis-loving enthusiasts may head to Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is fully legal and available for purchase.

New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, campaigned hard on cannabis legalization during his 2016 bid for the seat. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Governor, was a little late to the party, only recently realizing his mistake in backing prohibition. Connecticut also failed to pass a cannabis bill to legalize adult-use despite Governor Lamont’s support of legalization. The West Coast is making the East Coast look bad in terms of cannabis reform. However, the progressive west’s influence has led to a green wave that is affecting the whole of the country. Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana during the midterm elections last November, and they expect to have stores open before the huge 4/20 holiday next year. Illinois did not experience the problems that New York, New Jersey or Connecticut faced when it became the first state to see its legislature legalize adult-use cannabis. Oklahoma, one of the most politically conservative states in the country, established one of the most permissive medical marijuana markets nationwide.

New Yorkers will now have to wait until 2020 before its lawmakers will even talk about it again. Some lawmakers are looking to use tax revenue generated from cannabis sales to clean up the New York subway system, and others would use the funds to benefit the victims of prohibition. Rumors are that the bill New York legislators are working on could include the right for people 21 years of age or older to grow weed at home. Cannabis is very popular in New York City, and police are turning a blind eye to public consumption and possession after Mayor de Blasio requested they focus their attention on larger-profile crimes while the state determines what it will do about cannabis.

Emerald contributor since June 2019
I have been writing about the cannabis space now for three years and have had the opportunity to interview some of the top cannabis business executives and advocates in the world as the managing editor for The National Marijuana News. I worked in the financial sector for 14 years as an investment advisor rep and futures broker. I am a longtime advocate for the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana along with industrial hemp.


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