New York Set To Expunge Historical Cannabis Convictions

The State of New York has recently approved a bill which will expunge low-level historical cannabis convictions from the criminal records of New York citizens.

New Yorkers with historical cannabis convictions can breathe a sigh of relief, thanks to a new bill approved by the State Senate and sponsored by Senator Brian Benjamin. The bill allows people who have been convicted of low-level cannabis offences to have their criminal records expunged, and was approved with a 41-19 vote.

Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off legislation last year that decriminalised cannabis and cleared previous conviction records, it failed to expunge convictions that occurred before 1977. The new bill will change historical convictions from being deemed as 'violations' to 'misdemeanours and/or violations'. This change will allow any convictions made before 1977 to be expunged under Governor Cuomo's 2019 legislation.

The new bill marks a positive change in New York cannabis legislation, which has been a topic of interest within the Big Apple in recent times. Back in January, it seemed likely that New York would move to legalise recreational cannabis consumption after Governor Cuomo included cannabis legalisation in his budget proposal.

Cannabis legalisation in New York was also included in the 2019 budget but ultimately failed to be passed. However, the 2020 New York budget presented another opportunity to change the cannabis legislative landscape. Despite this, Governor Cuomo changed his outlook on the matter and stated that the cannabis legalisation efforts were 'effectively over'.

The State Senate also recently approved legislation to protect tenants who use medical cannabis. According to the legislation, tenants cannot be evicted for using any form of medical cannabis. New York City has also enacted a new law that prevents employers from drug-testing job applicants, however, this law does not apply statewide.

Even with the New York Senate attempting to make further cannabis reforms, tackling the issue of cannabis criminalisation has remained a problem for lawmakers throughout the US. There are citizens in states that have legalised recreational cannabis who are struggling to break free from oppressive historical cannabis use laws.

In saying this, there are definitely states within the US that are embracing cannabis reform. One such state is Nevada, where over 15,000 people with cannabis convictions have been pardoned after the state approved legislation to expunge low-level cannabis convictions.

Colorado is also set to join the pot pardoning party after Governor Jared Polis was granted pardoning powers in June. The Governor believes that legalising recreational cannabis is a social equity issue, as people with cannabis convictions are denied access to jobs, loans, mortgages and licences.

In recent times, Colorado has been a strong-hold for cannabis reform and the industry. The month of May saw cannabis sales within the state reach their highest tally since recreational cannabis became available for sale back in 2014. Currently, the state is on track overtake its 2019 sales figures, which was the state's highest-grossing year to date.

With cannabis reform being a hot topic of debate in the US, this New York bill demonstrates another sign of progress in ending the War on Drugs and cannabis stigmatisation.

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Josh Griffin
Josh Griffin

Josh is a Perth-based writer with a background in psychology and pharmacology. Through his studies he has gained an interest in abnormal psychology, mental health and psychopharmacology and has reported on these topics. Currently, his main focus is on cannabinoids and their medical potential.

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