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New York lawmakers OK pot decriminalization

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jun 21, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP - Modified) — Lawmakers in New York state have passed legislation that would eliminate criminal penalties for public possession and use of marijuana.

The legislation would replace low-level criminal charges with civil tickets similar to a parking ticket. It would also create a process for expunging past pot convictions from the records of thousands of New Yorkers who had been arrested for small amounts of pot.

The bill passed the Senate Thursday followed by the Assembly early Friday. Both chambers are led by Democrats.

Legislation that would have legalized recreational marijuana for adults and regulated and taxed commercial sales fizzled Wednesday.

Lawmakers couldn't agree on key details, such as how tax revenue would be used and how local communities would decide whether they want to host dispensaries.

The session ends Friday.

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo says Buffalo Police have been issuing tickets for years.

Rinaldo says simple possession of marijuana arrests have decreased over the last three-years.

If police see someone smoking marijuana in public they will be issued a ticket of $50-$200 depending on the amount of Marijuana they have on them.

Another part of the bill would create a process for expunging past pot convictions. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says she believes this is important for many people to have more access to opportunities.

"To have people's records eliminated that prevent them from going to college, prevent them from getting a job in some cases, prevent them from living in public housing," Peoples-Stokes said.

Captain Rinaldo suggests if anyone has a criminal record of marijuana to contact a lawyer to see what they next steps are in getting the charge lifted from the record.