Decriminalization: New York law softening pot penalties goes into effect

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New York softened penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and created a process for erasing certain past offenses in a state law that went into place Wednesday.

The maximum penalty for possessing less than an ounce of pot has been lowered to $50.

The legislation also turns an unlawful marijuana possession statute into a violation similar to a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal charge.

Melissa Moore, of the New York Drug Policy Alliance, wants to legalize marijuana altogether.

“We are at a point where we know that public opinion is supportive of regulation,” she says.

An addiction counselor is against the legalization of marijuana but is supportive of the new law.

“They’re acknowledging people are using it. They’re not condoning it,” says Steven Chassman.

New York's Division of Criminal Justice Services said the law will lead to the sealing of more than 200,000 convictions for low-level marijuana offenses.

At least 24,400 people will no longer have a criminal record under the law, according to the agency.

"For too long communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana and have suffered the life-long consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction," said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement issued Wednesday.

AP wires contributed to this report.

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