On July 29, Gov. Andrew Cuomo decriminalized statewide simple possession for pot to a mere violation punishable by only fines. The law is set to take effect 30 days from the day the governor signed the bill into law.
Once in effect, charges of criminal possession of marijuana of less than an ounce will result in a $50 fine. For amounts less than two ounces, the fine is capped at $200.
Records can get wiped
The door is now open for retroactive expungement of misdemeanor marijuana convictions for those who have been busted for pot in the state of New York.
As stated by Gov. Cuomo, "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 added that it was important to offer those "who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged."
Close, but no cigar
Citywide, more than one district attorney ceased prosecution of those arrested for possession of small amounts of pot. Such was also the case in many other legal jurisdictions in the state prior to the passage of the legislation.
State legislators strived to fully legalize recreational marijuana. But their attempts fell too far short of the mark after negotiations between the New York Senate, Assembly and Gov. Cuomo.
Marshaled forces beat back legalization
Lawmakers in some of the more suburban and rural counties opposed legalization, citing concerns of pot users driving under the influence.
There are some unresigned matters surrounding how marijuana will be regulated and subsequently taxed. Opposition was also very strong from some medical groups, law enforcement personnel and parent-teacher associations.
What that means for you
If you got caught up in a minor pot bust in the past, you should learn how your record can get cleared of the charge. If you find yourself getting shaken down by the cops on the streets here in Brooklyn, you should be reassured that being caught with a small amount of marijuana just got a lot less serious.
Of course, it's always better to avoid any arrests and convictions than it is to defend them and have them expunged. A hard-hitting criminal defense attorney can challenge evidence the prosecution has against you and mount a credible defense to the charges.