When a New York State law decriminalizing marijuana went into effect in August, many people wondered what it would mean for ordinary people. There was also concern as to what decriminalization would mean for people arrested for marijuana violations previously. Well, here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know about this new law, and its implications for the general public.
First, it’s important to know that marijuana “decriminalization” is not the same thing as fully legalizing it. It is still illegal to possess, purchase or sell marijuana in New York, even in small quantities. However, instead of being a misdemeanor, possession of small amounts of marijuana is considered a violation, like speeding or running a traffic light. This means that you can get caught with small quantities of marijuana, and the worst that’ll happen is you need to pay a fine. (People caught with large amounts of marijuana, however, may still face incarceration.)
Second, the law allows those who have previously been convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes, and are currently serving jail or prison sentences, to ask to have their sentences reduced or expunged. This is particularly important, as a sentence that has been expunged will no longer be on their records and doesn’t need to be reported to employers on job applications, or to applications to colleges or training programs that ask for criminal background information. It can also have an impact on non-naturalized citizens, since it can reduce a crime from a deportable offense to one that will no longer endanger their legal immigration status.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for possession of marijuana, or you have previously been convicted of a marijuana-related offense, you’ll need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and get you the relief you deserve. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.