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TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Photos to illustrate a story about the incoming laws governing drugged driving that will accompany the legalization of marijuana this summer. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The state of New York has officially decriminalized marijuana.  No marijuana is not free for recreational use but by decriminalizing it the law expunges many past marijuana possession convictions and reduces the penalty for the possession of small amounts of the drug but it falls short of the legalization bill the advocates were pushing for.

“It does do two good things,” said Emma Goodman, a staff attorney in Legal Aid Society’s special litigation unit, who worked with legislators on the push to legalize recreational marijuana.  “It makes something that was a misdemeanor now a violation, and it automatically expunges old misdemeanor convictions,” she said. “That’s more than a lot of states have done. The problem is that it’s just getting rid of one very small amount of low-level offenses and it’s not actually legalizing marijuana … violations are still arrestable offenses in New York.”

The fact that most past convictions for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana will be automatically expunged is something Goodman and others had been fighting for.

“The automatic nature of (the legislation) is significant and does mean a lot more people are going to access the benefits of it,” she said.

The historically disproportionate arrests of people of color on possession charges necessitated the bill, its sponsor, Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) said after it passed in June.


Do you think that the United States is on its way to legalizing marijuana for recreational use?