New York Continues on Path of Marijuana Decriminalization as Expungement Opportunities Grow

By Michael Klazema on 7/4/2019

Though it remains a banned Schedule I substance on the federal level, marijuana is eliciting softened stances from states across the nation. While only a few states have pressed forward with the legalization of recreational marijuana, many more have established medical programs and looked for ways to reduce the impact of years of drug war policies. Chief among the tools that they use: decriminalization and expungement.

Both options recently came before the New York legislature, whose new Democratic majority sought to add their state to the list supporting complete legalization. Although the votes weren't there to make that outcome a reality, the legislators walked away with smaller but still significant victories on marijuana policy. 

First, the state decriminalized possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, knocking it down from a criminal offense to a violation similar to a traffic ticket attached to a modest fine. 

The result is that arrests for marijuana possession in New York should decline steadily. Because individuals will no longer face misdemeanor or felony charges for some forms of possession, their records will be clean from such incidents. Just as parking and speeding tickets do not show up on a criminal history report from, neither will minor marijuana violations.

Legislators declared another victory regarding expungement. Believing that decades of poor marijuana policy has led to high incarceration rates and an immeasurable impact on individuals and families, most marijuana convictions in New York will be automatically expunged. Following expungement, an individual's criminal record no longer reflects the event—it is as though it never happened. Proponents hope that this action will broaden opportunities for those previously convicted by providing them with a cleaner slate.

Not all states embrace automatic expungement. In West Virginia, the state recently approved a program for expunging records—however, it comes with caveats. Only certain convictions, particularly non-violent and non-sexual offenses, are eligible, and individuals have only one opportunity to make a successful petition; they must make their case before a judge who will decide if expungement is a warranted step.

Expungement does have the opportunity to open new doors for individuals with past convictions, and with marijuana laws changing across the country, many now wonder if they could be among the candidate for a clean state. At, we assist through our partner site, MyClearStart. With MyClearStart, you can assess your eligibility for expungement or record sealing within your state, and—when applicable—connect with qualified legal assistance to discuss the next steps in your process. 

With more opportunities available for a second chance, knowing your rights is a must, and MyClearStart can help.

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