September 7, 2019 at 9:02 am EDT | by Staff reports
Cannabis Culture
Andrew Cuomo, gay news, Washington Blade, marijuana possession
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a compromise measure after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization bill. (Photo by Pat Arnow via Flickr)

N.Y. law reducing possession penalties takes effect

ALBANY, N.Y — Legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties and facilitating the expungement of past cannabis convictions took effect last week.

Assembly Bill 8420-A reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to three months in jail) to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history.

The new law also amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City, police have made over 700,000 arrests for ‘public view’ violations. Eighty-six percent of those arrested were either black or Latino.

Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Several hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are eligible for expungement under the plan.

Assembly Bill 8420-A was negotiated in the closing days of the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers failed to agree on provisions of a marijuana legalization measure.

Poll: Alcohol, cigarettes worse than cannabis

BOSTON — Most Americans perceive cigarettes and alcohol to pose greater risks to public health than cannabis, according to survey data compiled by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and first reported by MarijuanaMoment.net.

According to the survey, 81 percent of respondents believe that tobacco cigarettes are “very harmful.” Fifty-one percent of respondents similarly view alcohol as “very harmful.” By contrast, only 26 percent of those surveyed ranked marijuana as “very harmful.”

Eighteen percent of those surveyed opined that cannabis was “not harmful at all.” By contrast, only two percent of respondents believed the same about alcohol and only one percent said so about tobacco.

N.J. governor vetoes expungement measure

TRENTON, N.J. — Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed Senate Bill 3205, which sought to expand the pool of crimes eligible for expungement and establish an expedited process for those with minor marijuana offenses to petition the court to have their records vacated.

“I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice, and I am hopeful that we can move forward together with a bill that provides a path to automatic expungement and allows for relief for those convicted for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses,” the governor said. “I will continue to work with the legislature to build a more complete system of expungements, so that more New Jerseyans are given a second chance and can better reintegrate into our society.”

The governor recommended several changes to the bill, including having criminal records specific to low-level marijuana offenses “immediately sealed” upon disposition and passing a supplemental appropriation of $15 million to hire additional employees to facilitate the expungement process.

It remains unclear whether lawmakers will revisit the legislation this year and amend it in a manner that concurs with the governor’s recommendations.

Okla. sees expanded protections for cannabis patients

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation took effect last week expanding protections for state-qualified medical cannabis patients.

House Bill 2612, which was signed into law in March, strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or certain types of employment solely based upon their patient status. It states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.”

Oklahoma is the 15th state to explicitly protect medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination, according to California NORML.
The new law also seeks to facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.” It also allows podiatrists to make medical cannabis recommendations, among other changes.

More than 146,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis therapy.

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.

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