New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee Crystal Peoples-Stokes yesterday announced the passage of legislation that would permit the permanent sealing of certain cannabis convictions in an effort to curb the long lasting effects of criminal records.
Currently, an individual charged with possession of 25 grams of cannabis or less is charged with a violation, similar to a traffic offense with no criminal record. However, many times officers request that a suspect empty his or her pockets or purse, observe cannabis within the contents, and then charge them with the misdemeanor for possessing cannabis in a public place and open to public view.
“Distinctively, this misdemeanor offense does create a criminal record”, states Speaker Heastie. “Under the proposal, this marijuana misdemeanor charge would be included among the offenses for which sealing of records is required upon conviction (A.10092, Peoples-Stokes).”
“A lifelong criminal record is a harsh burden to bear for an offense that is often treated as a violation,” said Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes. “Furthermore, this burden is one that disproportionately affects African American and Latino communities. Although studies show that white people use marijuana at similar rates, African Americans account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests and Latinos account for more than one third of such arrests. This places an unfair burden on minority communities.”
“This legislation will spare many New Yorkers the disgrace that comes with holding a permanent criminal record for a low-level marijuana crime,” said Assemblymember Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee. “It is a huge disservice to New Yorkers to let low level crimes prevent them from realizing their full potential and being productive members of society. Passage of this legislation is among our top priorities for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus and we’re committed to enacting this bill into law.”
“The inequality in the application of marijuana misdemeanor charges has failed far too many New Yorkers, and especially our youth,” said Assemblymember Perry, chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. “This bill will bring greater fairness to our communities, particularly communities of color, which have suffered long enough from this injustice.”
The measure has been sent to the Senate for consideration.