New York Officially Fails to Decriminalize Marijuana
During the week of June 19, New York state lawmakers failed to reach consensus concerning the state’s proposal to legalize (i.e. decriminalize) the recreational use of marijuana. The legislation, titled the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, would have not only decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, but also addressed the practice of disproportionately policing minorities for marijuana-related crimes, which has resulted in communities of color being overwhelmingly targeted for arrests and convictions. In addition, the legislation would have allowed for thousands of New Yorkers’ criminal records to be expunged.
Why Did It Fail?
According to reports, legislation failed in large part due to legislators being unable to agree on key details, such as taxation, expunging certain criminal records, and how/whether local communities would opt out of hosting dispensaries. Some are now concerned that New York could be several years away from legalization, as legislators won’t want to address the issue during an election year.
What About A “Plan B”?
According to some reports, lawmakers in New York still plan to make a push for a Plan B, which would involve decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and allowing for those previously convicted of possession of marijuana to have their records expunged for crimes related to marijuana possession. This is projected to affect close to 600,000 New Yorkers who currently have marijuana convictions on their records. Still, a number of advocates have pointed out that just pushing forward with decriminalization would not be enough, as this would still afford law enforcement far too much discretion.
Where Does This Leave New York?
As a result of the measure failing, New York still only authorizes the use of medical marijuana and prohibits any company from owning and operating more than four dispensaries in the state. With only between five and 10 companies allowed to operate, this leaves the state of New York with only 40 medical marijuana dispensaries. In order to be charged with a misdemeanor, you must be found possessing more than 25 grams, and, depending upon the amount, this carries between 15 days and 15 years in prison.
Contact Our New York Drug Defense Attorneys with Any Questions
This failure means is that countless New Yorkers will now be to continue to be targeted by law-enforcement when it comes to marijuana-related crimes. Police officers can still arrest people for smoking marijuana in public, and this issue involves serious racial profiling problems. New York in particular has a history of targeting young minorities in small possession of marijuana arrests, where they were regularly stopped and asked to empty their pockets.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a drug crime in New York, contact our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today to find out how we can help.