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New York Governor Pushes for Farther-Reaching Decriminalization Law

"Recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety," Cuomo said.

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Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn't exactly a vocal supporter of marijuana legalization, he does not believe anyone should be put in jail for pot possession.

“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently shows that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo said during a recent State of the State address.

It is for this reason that Cuomo plans to push for a more far-reaching decriminalization policy in 2017. As it currently stands, anyone caught with up to 25 grams of the herb faces fines ranging from $100-to-$250, depending on whether it is a first, second or third offense. However, possession of more than 25 grams (but less than 8 ounces) is considered a misdemeanor, punishable with jail time and fines reaching $1,000.

“This measure reflects the national trend and dramatic shift in public opinion,” reads a section of the Governor’s latest State of the State book. “Whereas other states have sought the full legalization of marijuana, this legislative change will specifically affect individual users and not reduce penalties on those who illegally supply and sell marijuana.”

Recently, Cuomo granted pardons and commutations to more than 100 non-violent offenders, some of who had been locked up for years over marijuana-related crimes.

There are some concerns, however, that Cuomo’s proposal will be met with serious opposition in the Republican-dominated Legislature. There is also likely to be resistance from law enforcement groups based on concerns that a wide scale decriminalization policy might open up the roadways to heavy marijuana trafficking the moment Massachusetts, which legalized recreational marijuana in November 2016, opens retail pot shops in 2018.

“There will likely be some people who are either ignorant or just won’t care that our laws are different from theirs,” Peter Kehoe, director of the New York Sheriff’s Association, told the CNHI State Reporter. “We’re anticipating a problem in our border counties. I know it is going to be attractive to some of our residents to go over there and come back stoned.”

Marijuana advocates say these concerns could be easily addressed through full legalization.

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