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Proposed bill would decriminalize marijuana in New York

We have seen a dramatic shift in public opinion regarding marijuana use and possession in recent years. People are becoming more tolerant of marijuana and less tolerant of the overly aggressive enforcement efforts to arrest and convict people for nonviolent drug offenses. As it stands, hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested for possession of marijuana in New York City since 1997.

But marijuana policies in New York are outdated, according to lawmakers who see these drug crimes as a waste of money and resources. Too many people are having their lives, reputations and criminal records ruined because of a crime related to use or possession of a substance that many feel is relatively harmless and medically beneficial. And if new efforts to change state marijuana laws are successful, New York could be the third state to legalize pot.

Efforts to decriminalize marijuana are not new. In fact, proposed laws to legalize the drug on at least a medical level have also been made this year. But a new law was introduced this week and advocates hope that this bill is successful. If passed, marijuana would be legalized and taxed in the state of New York.

Current marijuana-related laws are viewed by many people as being unfair and in desperate need of reform. Too many nonviolent offenders are being sent to jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana. And according to reports, a disproportionate number of young minority males are targeted by law enforcement, which contributes to an overall broken system of enforcement and overcrowded prisons. Advocates for marijuana legalization say that this is doing nothing more than creating a vicious and ruinous cycle.

Having a drug-related offense on your record can make it difficult for someone to keep or get a job, have custody of a child and maintain a respectable standing in a community. The damage a conviction can to do a person's life does not seem to match the offense, which is why many people support changes to drug laws. Until then, however, people could still be arrested, convicted and face overly harsh punishments for what may be a relatively minor offense. 

What do you think? Should marijuana be legalized and taxed in New York? 

Source: The Huffington Post, "New York Could Be Third State To Legalize Pot," Saki Knafo, Dec. 11, 2013

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Lerner & Lerner, P.C.

Former prosecutors with more than 50 years of combined experience

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