Hundreds of thousands of marijuana convictions to be expunged following pot legalization
It may be a year away until recreational marijuana dispensaries open their doors in New York, but on Wednesday hundreds of thousands of lives changed because the state officially legalized pot.
No matter how long they were in jail or how high a fine they paid, a marijuana conviction - even for a misdemeanor - could be devastating.
These convictions have been stains that have ruined lives, according to lawyers around the state who have spoken with News 12.
People could be ineligible for student loans, a commercial driver's license or even housing.
That's why advocates for this bill say they are happy it's was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Thursday, legalizing marijuana in the state of New York. In addition to legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana, hundreds of thousands of convictions will be expunged, too.
That means it will be wiped off someone's record.
News 12 sought comment from the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, a group that has represented some of these New Yorkers with low-level marijuana convictions.
"Think about a weight being lifted off your back where you're always under scrutiny, always having to go so much more than anybody else. Doing more than anybody else. When that is lifted from you, there is a huge sense of relief," says Clare Degan, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County.
The state will immediately start the process of removing these charges from New Yorkers' records.
Back in 2019, the state expunged other marijuana convictions - nearly 200,000 of them.
The plan is to use the same system to do away with a number that is expected to be higher than the numbers in 2019.