As cannabis legalization sweeps the nation, many Americans continue to be left out by new laws. There are a number of Americans, predominantly people of color, who are in prison or are being arrested for cannabis possession or use. To help make things right, the state of New York is implementing measures to make sure cannabis legalization works equally for all of its citizens. The state recently wiped cannabis convictions from the records of nearly 25,000 people.
Thousands Left Behind By Legalization
Though the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis is occuring much more frequently and in a large number of states, people are still being arrested for cannabis possession at alarming rates. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, in 2017 in the United States,
“the number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only was 599,282.”
If you were led to believe the drug war was over you are wrong. Many lives continue to be destroyed due to outdated and unfair laws. A large number of lives will continue to be disrupted until major legislative changes are made at the local, state, and federal levels of government. New York, a state that has seen a massive amount of cannabis related arrests and convictions is taking steps to make good with its citizens.
New York Attempts to Eliminate Cannabis Convictions
As part of a new state law that is attempting to reduce penalties associated with cannabis-related arrests, New York will begin expunging many of the records of people convicted of those crimes. Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement to the media,
“For too long communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the lifelong consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction.”
The law, which took effect Wednesday, August 29th, 2019 has already cleaned up the records and worked to improve the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. According to a State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative, 10,872 people living in New York City have had cannabis convictions removed from their criminal records under the new law. Another 13,357 people throughout the state of New York have had cannabis related convictions expunged from their records.
There Is Work To Be Done
New York is a prime example of a state that has seen its citizens decimated by the war on drugs. The expunging of cannabis convictions from the records of nearly 25,000 people is a massive positive step in the right direction. However, the Drug Policy Alliance found that,
“between 1990 and 2018, 867,701 arrests were made in New York State for low-level marijuana offenses.”
Clearly there is still a vast majority of the nearly one million New Yorkers who have been arrested for low level cannabis offenses that haven’t had those convictions expunged from their records. Until those people have their records cleaned as well, there will be no equality in how cannabis legalization affects everyone.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.