Amidst his considerable PR troubles, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Wednesday that should serve as a breezy interlude of good news for New Yorkers who enjoy smoking weed but not the risk of criminalization that has long hovered overuse of the herb.
On Tuesday night, the New York General Assembly voted to pass a measure legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state and allowing for recreational sales to people 21 and older. Cuomo followed up by signing the bill into law on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.
Though recreational sales of marijuana won’t begin in the state until 18 months have passed, the legislation now provides for the automatic expulsion of marijuana-related convictions in New York and police will no longer be able to arrest or prosecute people for having up to 3 ounces of marijuana in their possession. Last year, the NYPD arrested nearly 500 people for having weed.
“For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences,” said Cuomo in a statement about the measure. “After years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes safety guards for the public.”
The new law includes workplace, school, housing and family court protections for people who like their ganja—a notable provision since weed smokers continue to face workplace repercussions (as high up as in the Biden administration) for their recreational activities. Despite the slate of states that have decriminalized cannabis in recent years, federal law still prohibits the use, sale and possession of marijuana.
The passage of the law in New York, however, means people there can toke up in public—though smoking or vaping marijuana is still prohibited in workplaces, hospitals and within 100 feet of a school.
As part of the legislation, the state says it will give 50 percent of marijuana sale licenses to people from underrepresented communities. New York plans to set a 9 percent sales tax on recreational weed peddled in the state, along with additional taxes and will use the expected millions of dollars in revenue to fund social services in communities targeted by the drug war as well as to support schools, drug treatment programs and to regulate the new law.