New York Misses Deadline to Legalize, Decriminalizes Instead

Deb Tharp | June 21, 2019 | Leave a Comment

There were a lot of disappointed New Yorkers this week. Governor Cuomo’s promise to legalize cannabis in the state has been an up and down battle for the past few months. A bill to fully legalize cannabis made enormous progress through the state legislature, but was finally shut down due to inability to agree on social justice and regulatory issues.

Image courtesy of Raihan Rana

Instead, the legislature did the next best thing–they further decriminalized cannabis possession, and promised to begin expunging cannabis criminal records. The bill was passed in the last legislative hours by both the State Assembly and Senate, and is now headed to the governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

You can read the bill here.

In short, the bill says:

  • Possession of under two ounces will no longer be a criminal offense, and fines will be reduced.
  • A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree when they knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana. The fine will be $50.
  • A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana in the first degree when they knowingly and unlawfully possess one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing  marijuana and the preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of more than one ounce. The fine will be $200.
  • Procedures will be established to automatically expunge criminal records for possession.
  • Smoking marijuana has been added to the official definition of “smoking” under Public Health Law so that cannabis smoking can be prohibited wherever tobacco smoking is prohibited.

It’s not legalization, but it’s a start!

Meanwhile, remember that these fines only apply to unlawful possession of cannabis. If you’re considering using cannabis medicinally and have a qualifying condition for medical cannabis use, you can become a registered patient to use cannabis products legally. To find out if you qualify, contact NuggMD for an appointment today.




About Deb Tharp

Deb Tharp is a cannabis activist, consultant, and writer. She began her cannabis activism at the age of 18, helping local candidates campaign door-to-door in the Midwest. Little did she know that the plant would save her husband's life a decade later. After watching him recover from the ravages of kidney failure and add 60 pounds to his skeletal frame in a matter of months, she was convinced that the war on weed must end. She ran for State Assembly in 2010 while completing her bachelor's degree at University of California, Irvine. She stood little chance of winning as one of the state's last Libertarian candidates, but she did manage to bring cannabis legalization to the forefront of the public debate. Little more than a year later, she was publicly arrested while gathering signatures for a local ballot initiative in Orange County. She fired back at the county by qualifying Measure CC in Santa Ana under Kandice Hawes' of OC Norml’s expert leadership. In the following years, she authored, qualified and helped to qualify over a dozen local legalization ballot initiatives across the state while teaching other activists how to do the same. She currently writes for Nugg, the nation's largest online cannabis marketplace, while pursuing her law degree at Taft Law School and will graduate in 2021.


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