Boat's view of the New York City skyline.

Peter McConnochie

Bill Sealing Low-Level Cannabis Possession Convictions Heads to NY Senate

A proposal to seal criminal records of individuals arrested for possession of cannabis in public view in New York has passed the State Assembly 95-38 – if it’s approved by the Senate it could impact more than 800,000 convictions in the state. Citizens charged with possession in public view are often accused of the crime only after being subjected to controversial stop-and-frisk searches.

Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the bill sponsor, said the measure is necessary “because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction” adding that communities of color have been the most affected by 40 years of “bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization” and are often targeted during stop-and-frisk stops.

“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,” she said in a press release. “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.”

Kassandra Frederique, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, applauded the Assembly vote and said that the measure is “most urgent” under the Administration of President Donald Trump, whose policies have, thus far, been anti-immigrant.

“Comprehensive drug law reform must include legislative and programmatic measures that account for our wrongheaded policies and invest in building healthier and safer communities, from the Bronx to Buffalo, Muslim and Christian, US-born and green card-holding,” she said.

The measure now moves to the state Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. Jamaal Bailey.

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