“We weren’t just fighting for legalization for the sake of legalization,” VOCAL-NY Director of Organizing Jawanza James Williams said Monday. “We were fighting for marijuana justice.”
The deal to legalize marijuana in New York includes funding for education, small business opportunities, and a fresh start for people with some marijuana convictions on their records.
Legal Aid Society attorney Emma Goodman believes New York’s deal should be a blueprint. “It is the gold standard for what states around the country should be doing,” she said.
Once Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the legislation into law, Goodman will begin advising clients on whether or not they will be eligible to have a previous marijuana conviction automatically cleared. “You’ll have to know exactly what you were convicted of—if it is a possession offense that you were convicted of then all of those will be eligible for automatic expungement,” she said.
The new law will also impact how the NYPD can interact with New Yorkers. “The odor provision in the bill says that the police can no longer use the smell of marijuana as a reason to stop people on the street, and that is one of the main reasons why the NYPD stops our clients,” Goodman explained.
New York state will also create an Office of Cannabis Management. Part of its role will be helping people who were impacted by marijuana laws to now obtain legal licenses to sell.
“This bill really tries to give licensing opportunities to individuals in communities,” Goodman explained. “And even to people that are formerly incarcerated, you’re not necessarily going to be denied just because you have a prior drug offense for instance.”
A vote is expected on marijuana legislation Tuesday, and Cuomo is expected to sign the passed bill into law.