New York Decriminalizes Up to Two Ounces of Recreational Marijuana

by Nathan Yerby | |  

A New Marijuana Law for New York

In the State of New York, recreational marijuana is one step closer to becoming legal. On July 29, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law which reduces penalties on New Yorkers who use and possess as many as two ounces of non-medical marijuana. Since decriminalization is not legalization, the police in New York can still arrest someone for possessing up to two ounces of cannabis, but the State will now only charge that person with a violation rather than a misdemeanor. In other words, New Yorkers can no longer go to prison for possessing marijuana in small amounts. Here are the major rules of the new law:

  • The penalty for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana will be a $50 fine.
  • The penalty for possessing between one and two ounces of marijuana will be a maximum fine of $200.
  • It will be illegal to smoke marijuana wherever it is illegal to smoke cigarettes.

It remains illegal in New York to grow, buy, or sell recreational marijuana in any quantity.

The law also provides New Yorkers who have criminal records for possessing marijuana an opportunity to apply to have the State erase their convictions. Additionally, the State will automatically erase all criminal convictions for possessing as many as 25 grams (0.88 ounces) of marijuana. There are almost 600,000 people in New York who have a criminal record for minor marijuana offenses. The provisions of the law take effect in 30 days.

Politics and Criminal Justice Reform

Cuomo campaigned last year to legalize marijuana in New York, but his fellow Democrats in the state legislature were not able to reach a consensus on how the State would regulate the cannabis industry. Meanwhile, the Republicans in New York opposed legalization altogether. Although Cuomo could not fulfill his pledge this year to legalize marijuana, he praised the decriminalization law as “a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process.”

In 1977, New York decriminalized the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis, yet the State continued to punish smoking any amount of the drug “in public view” as a crime. Advocates of decriminalization claim that this provision of the old law disproportionately affected New Yorkers who are Black, Hispanic, and poor. In fact, in just one year, 2015, 88% of all New Yorkers who were arrested for marijuana possession were members of racial minorities.

Some supporters of decriminalization say that the new law will correct this disparity by equalizing the penalties for possessing marijuana in public and in private. However, others say that legalizing the drug, taxing it, and then investing the revenue into underserved communities is the only way to truly address the problem. In the words of Melissa Moore, the deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, “decriminalization falls short.” It’s likely that New York will continue to debate the merits of legalization and may one day join the 11 states where marijuana is fully legal.

Find Help In New York For Marijuana Abuse

Whether or not it’s legal, illegal, or decriminalized, marijuana is not safe. In fact, the drug has the potential to inflict a variety of health problems, aggravate mental illness, stunt brain development, and cause addiction. Marijuana is a common drug in New York, but fortunately there are also many rehab centers in New York which offer treatment to anyone who wants to recover from a marijuana habit. Please contact a dedicated recovery specialist today to find out more about the options for rehab in the Empire State.

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