[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]M[/dropcap]any were disappointed to hear that New York legislators did not support the much-anticipated recreational cannabis bill recently. However, there is still some hope, as state officials are making moves to decriminalize cannabis.
According to WTVR, state senators and members of the Assembly voted on June 20 to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of cannabis. This measure would reduce the charges associated with cannabis from serious jail time or fines to the equivalent of a parking ticket. Those with less than one ounce would pay $50 for possession, and those in possession of an ounce or more would pay $200.
Sen. Jamaal Bailey, one of the bill’s sponsors, claimed he support this effort because even minor cannabis convictions can affect a person’s life by “limiting their access to housing, access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment.” Fittingly, the bill was initially introduced as a backup plan in case legalization didn’t pass. “We will get there,” said bill supporter Sen. Diane Savino. “This is one step on the path. We will get there.”
Although the state has been making rollbacks to cannabis convictions for years, it is still legal to arrest people for cannabis in public. This law has been used to target many people of color over the years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in favor of legalization and says he will likely sign the bill once it reaches his desk. “It’s not legalization,” he said. “But it is decriminalization and it’s a major, major accomplishment.”
Still, many are bitter that New York didn’t take the leap into full legalization. “Comprehensive reform would have been an enormous economic driver for struggling communities across the state,” said Drug Policy Alliances Deputy New York State Director Melissa Moore, to the Wall Street Journal, when legalization failed in the state. “But in a moment when they had a clear avenue for building up marginalized communities, they chose not to act. It’s pathetic.”