This new law will expunge the records of statewide residents with low-level marijuana convictions, which applies to a total of nearly 25,000 individuals with almost 14,000 people in the five boroughs alone, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
A person in possession of marijuana under two ounces was previously considered a criminal offense, but it has been reduced to a violation with a fine. A $200 penalty will be given to anyone with one to two ounces while anything under an ounce will come with a $50 fine.
"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," Cuomo said in a statement after signing the legislation. "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."
New York State lawmakers settled on this decriminalization measure after they were unable to hammer out the details on a law that would’ve legalized recreational marijuana. Cuomo said that a lack of votes in the Senate halted the bill’s progression.
"This is a momentous occasion, but it is only halfway to rectifying the problems that exist with regard to continued marijuana prohibition," said David Holland, the executive and legal director of Empire State NORML, per New York Daily News.