On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a bill that expanded marijuana decriminalization and also paved the way for people with certain marijuana convictions to have their criminal records wiped clean.
The new law, which will take effect 30 days from the date of signing, will make the possession of less than two ounces of cannabis a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine that varies between $50 and $200 depending on how much marijuana one is convicted for possessing.
In a press release, Cuomo stated that the signing of this law is a critical step towards mending the discriminatory and broken criminal justice system in which people of color were disproportionately targeted during the failed War on Drugs. He added that the expungement provisions and the change in the draconian penalties for marijuana possession offers the affected communities a chance for a fresh start.
Marijuana law reform advocates hailed this new law although it fell short of the full legalization that they had hoped for during the just-ended legislative session. Cuomo had delivered his budget proposal without marijuana legalization, but there was hope that any differences over the implementation of the program would be ironed out in the final months of the session.
However, the disagreements over how the policy would be implemented dragged on until the governor announced that a deal couldn’t be agreed upon in time for a vote during the closing days of the session.
The key sticking points were whether local authorities would have the final say on whether marijuana businesses operated within their jurisdictions and the second major cause of disagreement regarded the way in which taxes from marijuana would be spent by the state.
The decriminalization and expungement bill was a compromise law upon which there was little disagreement. Carl Heastie (D), the Assembly Speaker, hailed the law saying that it removed the barriers that were standing in the way of many New Yorkers who wished to find housing, a job and get an education.
Even anti-marijuana legalization groups, such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), welcomed the law saying that it was a reasonable piece of legislation that was long overdue. SAM admitted that they had worked hard to defeat the broader legalization bill, and would continue to campaign for marijuana to remain prohibited in the state.
Sen. Diane Savino (D), who has been a longtime campaigner for marijuana law reform, commented that the decriminalization and expungement law was slight progress since the sale of marijuana was still left in the hands of criminals instead of letting licensed businesses participate in a regulated industry.
Cannabis industry analysts believe that industry players like SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING) and Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQB: PLPRF) will be pleased by the signing of this law since it marks another chip taken off the wall of prohibition.
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