Some wait in New York City jails for marijuana convictions to be cleared | New
ALBANY (TNS) – New York’s cannabis legalization law contains a provision to clear some convictions for marijuana-related offenses, and the state’s court administration office has said the measure should clear criminal records of tens of thousands of potential people – including 19 people currently serving prison sentences in the state.
The deadline for overturning convictions for possession of marijuana is two years from when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law last week, OCA spokesman Lucian Chafen said. Right now, he said, the estimate of the marijuana-related offenses that will be removed is around 108,000, but that number is expected to rise to around 150,000 when they are. able to identify all parts of relevant cases.
These figures do not represent the number of people whose criminal records can be cleared, but the total number of convictions – some people may have more than one conviction for offenses that no longer constitute a crime.
The number of people convicted of marijuana on their record is likely in the tens of thousands, and studies show it to be disproportionately black and Latino individuals. People with criminal records often have a harder time finding a job, getting loans, and renting or buying a home. The purpose of the strikeout provision in the legalization bill is to remove these barriers for people who have been convicted of something that is no longer criminal.
The 19 people held in state prisons have been convicted of the most serious charges, such as possession or sale of marijuana, according to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Spokesmen for the OCA and DOCCS said they were waiting to verify the identity of these people and the details of their sentencing before anyone could be released.
A member of staff in the office of State Senator Liz Krueger – one of the main sponsors of the law – said that based on their conversations with people in the executive branch, redactions of incarcerated people would be a priority.
Krueger’s office expects the majority of redactions to happen quickly, as relevant state agencies can sort through the records of people who have been convicted under previous marijuana laws. But it will take longer to go through the records of individuals who have been convicted of “cannabis concentrate,” which is included in a section of the state’s criminal law along with other controlled substances such as ketamine.
Efforts will also be made to examine those charged with cannabis-related crimes and other offenses – such as a firearm charge – on the same case sheet. This will require staff to manually review the files, Krueger’s office said, and there is funding in the bill for this additional work.
In addition, those convicted of larger scale illicit drug distribution, organized crime or gang activity or violent crimes will not be automatically released. People who would have received less severe sentences under the new provisions of the bill can apply for reduced sentences, but this will not be granted automatically.
About 40% of all admissions to state prisons are people whose parole has been revoked as a result of technical violations, such as curfew violations or a positive drug test, Vincent said. Schiraldi, Columbia University researcher, Times Union. State correctional officials said those people would not be eligible for the marijuana deregistration provisions of the new law.