With a 95 to 38 vote, New York’s full Assembly has given approval to a bill that would seal the criminal records of those charged with possessing marijuana.
According to government statistics, there have been over 800,000 people arrested in New York for simple cannabis possession in the last 20 years, making the reaches of this measure widespread. Assembly Bill 2142 now moves to the Senate, where its passage would send it to Governor Andrew Cuomo for final consideration.
“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” says Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the bill’s primary sponsor. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist. Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years.”
Peoples-Stokes continues; “It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families. If today’s moment of increased attention to heroin encourages us to center public health in our drug policy, then we need to ensure that we are making amends to communities of color by alleviating the burden bad policies have had on their lives. Sealing low-level marijuana possession convictions is the first step to reintegrating thousands of New Yorkers who are inhibited daily from accessing employment, housing and an education all due to a conviction on their record for simple possession of marijuana.”
According to the Drug Policy Alliance; “New York State first decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 1977, recognizing the harmful impact an arrest could have on young people. Although New York officials, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously recognized these arrests as ineffective, unjust, and racially discriminatory, they still continue across the state because of a loophole in the law. In 2016 more than 22,000 New Yorkers were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana – 80% of whom were black or Latino.”
Click here for the full text of Assembly Bill 2142.