Smoking marijuana in public in New York State can now only be punished with a fine rather than jail time after a new decriminalization law went into effect Wednesday, August 28th. As CBS New York reports, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the new bill last month.
Consuming weed in public in New York used to be a criminal misdemeanor that could carry a punishment of up to 90 days in jail. As the marijuana advocacy group NORML noted in a statement, those arrested for “public view” violations were overwhelmingly black or Latinx.
The new decriminalization law also reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession so that anyone — regardless of their criminal history — caught with less than an ounce of weed will be fined $50, while a maximum fine of $200 will be issued to anyone with one to two ounces. Lastly, the new law establishes a path for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers saddled with low-level marijuana records to have their records automatically expunged of crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.
“Although New York has had some form of decriminalization since 1977, the criminalization of marijuana continued to harm communities, break up families, and cost New York taxpayers billions of dollars over the last forty years,” said Tyler McFadden, a Political Associate for NORML. “State legislators made the right choice by taking this important step to decriminalize marijuana and expunge past records, and the move gives legislators and activists the momentum they need to finally legalize marijuana in the Empire State.”
While New York’s new decriminalization law is a massive improvement, the state notably failed to fully legalize cannabis earlier this summer. Despite Governor Cuomo voicing his support for legalization last year, the state legislature failed to reach an agreement on a potential bill before the end of the legislative session in June.