Penalties for possessing and smoking marijuana in New York will be loosened in 30 days under a new law that advocates say will lead to fewer arrests for users, the Wall Street Journal reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Monday that sets the fine for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana at $50 and up to two ounces at $200. The decriminalization law was approved legislature after a more comprehensive effort to legalize recreational marijuana failed to win enough support for a vote. “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 said.
It is currently a criminal offense to possess more than 25 grams of marijuana, smoke it or hold it in public view. New York City police officers under the now-defunct “stop and frisk” program used the public-view provision to justify arrests that disproportionately fell on black and Latino residents, critics say. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services says that 86 percent of people arrested on the lowest-level marijuana charge in 2017 were black or Hispanic, while nine percent were white. The same activity would become a noncriminal violation, like a traffic ticket. The new law would create a vehicle for people to expunge previous arrests for small possession charges. Republicans voted against the new law, saying it would encourage marijuana use.