Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties and facilitating the expungement of past cannabis convictions took effect on Thursday.
Assembly Bill 8420-A reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to three months in jail) to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history.
The new law also amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City, police have made over 700,000 arrests for ‘public view’ violations. Eighty-six percent of those arrested were either Black or Latino.
Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Several hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are eligible for expungement under the plan.
Assembly Bill 8420-A was negotiated in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization measure.