New York lawmakers strike deal to decriminalize marijuana possession

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State lawmakers were poised to give final passage Thursday night to a measure further decriminalizing possession of marijuana and create a process that could lead to the clearing of marijuana conviction records for tens of thousands of people.

A separate measure to greatly expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program — which suffers from high product prices and spotty availability for qualified patients — died a slow Albany death at the end of session.

The decriminalization and expungement efforts came quickly to the forefront of the final hours of session after efforts fell apart earlier this week to legalize marijuana and create a state regulatory system to oversee its cultivation, sales, pricing and potency.

“Anything that we can do to stem the tide of unequal, unfair, racially biased marijuana arrests is something that I’m excited to be doing,’’ Senator Jamaal Bailey, a Bronx Democrat and sponsor of the decriminalization bill in the Senate, said in an interview.

“It’s a step in the right direction but this is not the be-all, end-all issue about marijuana,’’ added Bailey, the Senate’s code committee chairman.

The measure passed the Senate Thursday along party lines, by a 39-23 margin, and was expected to pass later in the Assembly. [Read more at The Buffalo News]