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New York Lawmakers Holding Marijuana Legalization Hearing

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New York lawmakers will hold a joint session on marijuana legalization early in the new year.

“This hearing will examine the potential for allowing regulated sale and adult possession of marijuana in New York and how it would affect public health and the criminal justice systems,” a notice posted on Thursday by the chairs of the Assembly Committees on Codes, Health and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse says.

Under current New York law, marijuana possession is decriminalized. But a loophole that allows police to bust people for cannabis seen in public view has led to robust arrest rates.

“Forty years ago, New York decriminalized non-public possession of small amounts of marijuana, making such possession a non-criminal violation punishable only by a fine. However, a significant number of people are arrested for public possession of a small amount of marijuana every year,” the hearing notice says. “Studies have repeatedly shown that those arrested are disproportionately African American and Latino. Existing laws expose many of these nonviolent offenders to possible imprisonment and a lifelong and unnecessary criminal record that can prevent gainful employment and full participation in society.”

The state also has a relatively limited medical cannabis laws that has gradually expanded over the years to allow greater patient access and qualifying conditions.

The three-committee joint hearing on legalization will be held on January 11.

Information on how to submit testimony is online here.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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