This week, New York State residents can possess up to two ounces of marijuana without criminal penalties; and thousands of New Yorkers will be eligible to have low-level marijuana convictions wiped clean from their records. Under the amended law, the classification of marijuana possession has been lowered from a misdemeanor to a violation.
The new law was signed by Governor Cuomo on August 28, 2019 and immediately went into effect on that day. Residents with misdemeanor convictions of Unlawful Marijuana Possession and Possession of Marijuana will not need to submit applications to have their records cleaned — those convictions will be automatically expunged from their record and sealed in the system.
New York State residents can also petition to have their records destroyed in the court where the conviction occurred, but that will be subject to a court order.
What Part of the Law Changed that New York Residents Can Possess:
• Under section 221.10 of the penal law (Unlawful possession of marijuana in the first degree), a person is guilty when they possess any form of marijuana weighing more than one (1) ounce. This violation is punishable by a fine of no more than $200.
• Under section 221.05 of the penal law (Unlawful possession of marihuana in the second degree), a person is guilty when they possess marijuana weighing less than one (1) ounce. This violation punishable by a fine of no more than $50.
• Under section 160.50(3)(k) of the penal law (Order upon termination of criminal action in favor of the accused),
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services estimates that over 13,000 individuals with a criminal record from the five boroughs, alone, will have no New York criminal record after the law change; and another 200,000 cases across the state will be automatically eligible to be expunged. However, while marijuana has been decriminalized, it is still illegal:
• Fines: The new penalty for marijuana use is a maximum fine of $200. Quantities over two ounces will still result in misdemeanor or felony charges.
• Clean Record: All prior misdemeanor possession convictions will be automatically expunged and sealed, leaving residents’ records clean of those charges.
• Driving: Like drinking alcohol and driving, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is still a misdemeanor. Don’t smoke and drive!
• Traffic stops: The smell of marijuana is probable cause for an officer to pull someone over and search their car. Remember, anything illegal — whether marijuana or not — an officer finds in the car can be used against you.
• Growing or selling: It is still illegal to grow or sell marijuana in New York State.
• Smoking in public: The new law outlaws smoking marijuana anywhere that smoking is prohibited: public areas, parks, restaurants, etc.