After the drama of the battle over adult-use legalization in New York – it’s happening, then it’s definitely not happening, then it may still be happening – the legislative session ended without legalization being voted on. Instead, New Yorkers will have to settle for expanded decriminalization.
Although marijuana has technically been decriminalized in New York since 1977, the new legislation will reduce fines and close the so-called “public view loophole” used by police to get around the decriminalization by getting suspects to produce cannabis in public view.
“The bill lowers the fines associated with possessing small amounts of cannabis, under 2 ounces, to be up to $200,” according to a press release from 6 different NORML chapters in the Empire State. “This bill also introduces a retroactive expungement mechanism into our criminal justice system, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands.
“This ‘decriminalization’ bill that is currently waiting for the Governor to sign into law, does nothing to end arrests for cannabis possession. Instead, the bill reduces penalties for public use and burning to a violation that can still ultimately lead to arrest.”
Later on in the release, several Democrat lawmakers in the state are called out by name for not doing enough. “However, Governor Cuomo along with Senator Kevin Thomas, Senator Monica Martinez, Senator John Brooks, Senator Todd Kaminsky, Senator Anna Kaplan, Senator Roxanne Persaud, Senator Shelly Mayer, Senator Jim Gaughran and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky decided not to prioritize provisions that were necessary to end and correct New York’s long history of discriminatory arrests for marijuana prohibition. Having campaigned on progressive platforms, some of which included legalization, these Democrats betrayed their constituency and the rest of their conference who all were in alignment on this issue.”
As I’ve said before – and this seems especially true for the situation in New York this year – there is a tendency among lawmakers to get bogged down in details like “social justice” and worrying about what is going to be done with tax revenues to the point where they fail to pass the very legalization that would allow these other things to be worked on.
Without legalization there are no tax revenues to worry about and minorities can keep on getting criminal records in what is a prime example of “putting the cart before the horse”. Now, New Yorkers will have to wait until at least next year before they get a chance at adult-use legalization. Unless, of course, lawmakers in the state are still fighting over tax money.