Peoples-Stokes’ Marijuana Sealing of Records Bill Passes Assembly Seals Records Immediately Instead of Waiting Three Years
Albany, NY — On Wednesday, June 6th Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes’ bill #A.2142 to seal low level marijuana convictions successfully passed on the Assembly floor. When New York State decriminalized marijuana possession in 1977, private possession came on par with traffic tickets but “public view” possession remained a misdemeanor. Not long after, stop and frisk and “broken windows” policing was implemented, becoming widespread practices enabling racial profiling. When police demanded that those suspected of possession (a violatio
n) empty their pockets, the private possession immediately elevated to “public view” possession (a misdemeanor resulting in arrests).
“ A lot of people affected by the loophole and disparity in applying these laws don’t live very far from places where it is, quite frankly, being sold on a legal basis as medicinal marijuana. That same product is holding these people’s lives down and impacting their ability to obtain public housing, professional licensure, or employment and higher education opportunities. It’s not fair that people be criminalized for long periods of time for convictions that are unwarranted. The records of these convictions need to be sealed. I strongly encourage my colleagues in the New York State Senate to also do right by thousands of New Yorkers and pass this bill too,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.
Although individuals do not typically serve significant amounts of prison time for marijuana possession, they still end up with a criminal record. This criminal record, and even an arrest without a conviction, can be accessed by potential employers, financial institutions, service providers, licensing entities, landlords, and even the general public. This often leads to long-term damaging effects, predominantly among New Yorkers of color. Currently these types of convictions are automatically sealed after three years. This bill just makes this automatic sealing take place immediately upon conviction. The purpose of removing that waiting period is to allow individuals convicted of this marijuana offense the ability to get on with their lives and be able to apply for jobs, student loans, public housing, and health benefits without being derailed 3 years and blacklisted for having a conviction. In 2014 there were 26,400 ‘possession of marijuana’ arrests in New York State. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) estimates 53.8 percent of misdemeanor arrests result in convictions. Applying this percentage to the amount of arrests, it would make 14, 256 individuals convicted of possession of marijuana in 2014. Over the past 9 years, there have been on average 67,539 misdemeanor drug convictions.
Prosecuting low-level marijuana possession comes at a significant expense to the taxpayers – a recent Drug Policy Alliance study found that these prosecutions cost New York City $75 million in one year. This bill would also save and allow taxpayer resources to be utilized more efficiently and effectively to investigate and prosecute more meaningful cases.