New York state governor Andrew Cuomo’s desire for full legalisation of cannabis took a step closer this week as marijuana use was decriminalised.
It means possession of small amounts of weed – punishable by imprisonment until Monday – will now be subject to discretionary fines.
The state has been slowly chipping away at strict marijuana laws, and this latest move paves the way for future legalisation.
Although obviously disappointed not to have state-wide full backing, Cuomo said the current position would allow putting in place measures that could clear the records of those with criminal convictions as a result of possession of small amounts of marijuana.
New York state becomes the 15th to pass a decriminalising bill, while eleven states and the District of Columbia have given the green light to recreational use of cannabis.
“By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process,” said Cuomo.
Between 2008 and 2017, more than 360,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession New York state. Turning over the resulting convictions is one of the Democrat’s main priorities.
Cuomo had vowed to make the recreational use of cannabis in New York completely legal this year, despite spending his previous two terms in office against the notion of legalisation.
However, after seeing the potential for revenue into the state coffers through taxation, Cuomo became one of its staunchest advocates.
The 61-year-old earmarked New York City’s subway system for refurbishment funded by an estimated $1.7bn to $3.5bn dollar legal market in marijuana.
Full legalisation suffered a serious setback in June when Democrats failed to agree a way forward for setting out regulation of the industry leading to decriminalisation rather than legalisation.