New Yorkers with historical cannabis offences are relieved today, as the State Senate has just approved a bill allowing people convicted of low-level cannabis offences to expunge their criminal records.
Although legislation to decriminalize cannabis and clear previous conviction records was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last year, it failed to expunge convictions before 1977.
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Brian Benjamin, was approved – with a 41-19 vote. Specifically, the bill will change historical convictions from reading that people have ‘violation or violations’ to ‘misdemeanour and/or violation’. With this change, convictions made pre-1977 can now be expunged under Governor Cuomo’s 2019 legislation.
In New York, the Senate also approved legislation last week to protect tenants who use medical marijuana. Under this legislation, tenants cannot be evicted for using any form of medical marijuana. Although the law does not apply statewide, New York City has also banned employers in most professions from testing candidates for marijuana.
While cannabis reform is a hot topic in America, even citizens in states with legal recreational cannabis are struggling to break free from oppressive cannabis historical laws. Although the New York Senate has attempted to make further cannabis reforms, lawmakers have struggled to adequately tackle the scale of cannabis criminalisation.
While New York’s progress might be slow, other states are embracing cannabis reform. Over 15,000 people with cannabis convictions have been pardoned in Nevada after the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners approved expunging low-level cannabis convictions.
In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis is about to begin his pot pardoning marathon after legislation giving him pardoning powers was passed in June.
According to the Governor, legalising cannabis is a social equity issue, as people with cannabis convictions are prevented from jobs, loans, mortgages and licenses. The Governor belies this is a:
First step for thousands of Coloradans who should not be living with a cloud over their head simply because they were a little bit ahead of their time.