Tag Archives: New York

NYC Council Passes Cannabis Resolutions Protecting Parents

At the end of last month, on July 23, 2019, the New York City Council passed two cannabis reform resolutions focused on issues facing parents. These were two resolutions out of ten that were first introduced on February 13, 2019.

The first resolution (Res. No. 740) calls on the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to implement a policy that states that a parent’s mere possession or use of marijuana does not itself create an imminent risk of harm to a child that would serve as the basis for a child’s removal from the parent’s custody.

The resolution cites reports of racial inequity in the enforcement of marijuana laws and identifies NYPD guidance from 2011 that recommends an individual in possession of small amounts of marijuana be issued a court summons instead of being arrested. The Council acknowledged that New York State has legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Given the trend to accept cannabis usage in New York and beyond, the Council passed this resolution, in part, to ensure that the child welfare system is consistent with this emerging acceptance.

The second resolution (Res. No. 746) calls on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, a law requiring the New York State Department of Health to create clear and fair regulations for hospitals on drug testing pregnant or birthing parents. The resolution states that these regulations should include the requirement for hospitals to inform patients of their rights before discussing drug use or testing with the patient.

The Council stated that the current policy for hospitals allows them to drug test patients who are giving birth and report positive tests to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (“SCR”), such report  would be required if the patient tested positive for marijuana alone. This mandated report triggers a child welfare investigation by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services.  Currently, the hospital has discretion over the individuals it chooses to test and it is unclear whether the hospitals are notifying patients that there are potential child welfare ramifications for drug tests and the disclosure of drug history to their health care provider. Similar to the first resolution, the Council is calling on the State to ensure a fair policy for drug testing patients that aligns with the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.

New York Fails to Legalize Adult Use Cannabis, Expands Decriminalization

Some bad news for those waiting for New York to legalize adult-use cannabis. Legislation aimed at legalizing adult-use cannabis failed on Wednesday (June 19), as state leaders in New York could not agree on certain key components of the  proposed Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (the “MRTA”).

One of the biggest points of contention in the MRTA was how the state would allocate the projected $300 million in annual tax revenue. In particular, some legislators argued that the funds should be allocated towards communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo argued that the executive branch – which he leads – should have more control over how that money is spent.

In addition, lawmakers also struggled to reach consensus on whether past cannabis convictions should be expunged and whether cities and counties would be expected to opt in to cannabis sales or, alternately, be able to opt out.

While adult-use maybe be off the table for now, on June 21, 2019, the New York Assembly and Senate approved a bill (A08420) to further decriminalize possession of cannabis and automatically expunge many low-level cannabis convictions.

Under A08420:

  • The penalty for possessing an ounce of cannabis (possession in the second degree) will be reduced to a $50 fine. Current law imposes a $100 fine, provided that the individual does not have a prior cannabis-related offense within the past three years.
  • The limit for cannabis possession in the first degree will be increased from 25 grams to one ounce, and the penalty will be reduced from a misdemeanor to a $200 fine. Currently, first-degree cannabis possession  can result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
  • Cannabis in “public view” will no longer be a misdemeanor offense.
  • Cannabis possession arrests and convictions for amounts decriminalized under the bill will be automatically expunged, and will apply to convictions prior to decriminalization.

A08420 will take effect and become law pending signature by Governor Cuomo.