New York is one of several states to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the news back in 2019, highlighting how the previous strict marijuana laws unfairly criminalized many people, and put them in jail, especially those in the African American and Latino communities. One survey found that a black person in New York was 15 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than a white person.
The law change came as a relief not only for those who currently use marijuana recreationally but for those who had a past criminal conviction for the possession of marijuana. Around 150,000 low-level convictions for possession were expunged when the new law came into place. It only applies to people charged under Penal Code Law sections 221.05 or 221.10.
A criminal record can have a considerable adverse effect on your life long after the event. It may show up in background checks, leading to you being turned down for jobs, housing or education. If the new rules apply to you, your marijuana conviction should only show up if you apply for a handgun license or become a police officer or peace officer.
Earlier this month, the New York State Unified Court System announced that you can now apply to have the records of these arrests, prosecution and criminal history destroyed. While the expungement is sufficient for most people, it could bring peace of mind knowing the records no longer exist.
Remember that while possessing up to two ounces of marijuana has been decriminalized, it has not been legalized, and you could still be fined if caught. Seek legal help if you have any doubts about expungement or the new marijuana laws.
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