Marijuana Amnesty: Immigrants, Here’s What You Need to Know Now


Marijuana Amnesty: Immigrants, Here’s What You Need to Know Now

It’s a historic day in New York. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, after years of advocacy and several deals that fell apart in 2019 and 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New York. New York becomes the second-most populous state, after California, to legalize recreational marijuana. Although retail sales are still a year or more away, many aspects of the bill took effect immediately, including making the possession of small amounts of marijuana legal. Marijuana legalization now looks to fix the past wrongs by putting an end to harsh prison sentences. Automatic expungement for past marijuana-related offenses that are no longer crimes also began immediately. Hopefully, marginalized communities that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits. And, for the immigrant communities, we have suffered the most.

By Victoria Falk, A CAW Exclusive

Yes! Marijuana, also known as cannabis, ganja, weed, pot, reefer, hash, and a whole host of other slang names, is now legal in New York State. On March 30, 2021, the state Senate voted 40-23, and the state Assembly voted 100-49 in favor of the bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in New York state. On March 31, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults in New York state. 

New York joins the growing list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana, with Pennsylvania wanting to follow suit. New York joined New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, and several other states in making recreational marijuana use legal for adults.

This was a historic move for Governor Cuomo, who signed legislation back in July of 2014, allowing the use of medical marijuana in New York. That law was very restrictive, and patients had to prove they had a qualifying condition before getting prescribed medical marijuana. The list of qualifying conditions included life-threatening and debilitating diseases such as epilepsy, cancer, AIDS, and other similar types of illnesses. However, this new legislation is much less restrictive and considers recreational use for the first time.

The new law allows adults, age 21-years-old and over, to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for recreational use or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug. People with certain marijuana-related convictions will have their records expunged immediately. This is a big deal for people who may have previously had limited access to employment due to a criminal record or those who feared that a marijuana-related conviction would negatively affect their immigration status. New York’s leading Immigration expert, Brian Figeroux, founding partner of the Law Firm of Figeroux and Associates and Ask the Lawyer Radio Program, warns immigrants that even though the Governor is offering “…amnesty for those of you convicted of marijuana possessions, you still have to do a New York post-conviction Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) 440 motion hearing in New York State to reverse the charge. Immigration court would not recognize that amnesty. They will still look at the crime for your conviction on any drug marijuana-related issues. You are inadmissible if you have more than one marijuana charge. You need to talk to a lawyer if you want to get your Green Card or become a U.S. citizen. You must speak to an attorney to determine if you qualify for amnesty and whether your case qualifies for a 440 Motion to vacate the judgment. If your case qualifies for a 440 motion hearing, your legalization gets back on track for your Green Card or to become a U.S. citizen.” 


What NY’s Marijuana Legalization Law Means for Immigrants

Legalization of Marijuana in NY

How New York’s New Marijuana Law Plants Seeds of Fairness

Mr. Figeroux, a member of AILA (American Immigration Lawyers’ Association) and immigration advocate, who has been practicing immigration law for over twenty years, offers free consultations to discuss these issues. 

Listen to “Marijuana Amnesty” Podcast by Attorney Brian Figeroux below:

Listen to “Legalization of Marijuana in NY ” Podcast by Attorney Brian Figeroux below:

Black communities, who suffered at a much greater rate than their White counterparts due to the criminalization of marijuana, are happy that police officers are no longer able to use the smell of marijuana as justification to stop and search a pedestrian. Governor Cuomo shared his thoughts on social media, “For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the Governor’s actions to pass the marijuana law during recent press conferences. However, New York City Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, expressed concern over the long-term effects and impact of legalizing recreational marijuana use on crime.

New Yorkers are now allowed to smoke marijuana in private residences and public areas, wherever smoking tobacco is permitted. People will be allowed to store up to 5 pounds of marijuana at home, but they must make sure it is in a secure place. The law also creates retail licenses, which paves the way for people to earn substantial income by becoming a licensed marijuana dispensary and or delivering marijuana to customers’ homes.

Listen to “Marijuana Legalization for New York” interview by Anthonine Pierre and Assemblymember Chantel Jackson below:

However, there are penalties for possessing more than the allowed amount of marijuana and selling the drug without a license. Smoking marijuana where it is not permitted will result in a fine and or mandated community service. Smoking marijuana at work, inside of a school, or inside of a car is not permitted. It remains illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Although one can smoke marijuana inside a private residence, the landlord has the right to decide whether or not to let you smoke on their property.  

Marijuana arrests affect getting a Green Card and applying for U.S. Citizenship. Find out if you qualify for amnesty and whether your case qualifies for a 440 motion hearing. If you have any questions about the new marijuana law, marijuana-related convictions, or any other legal issue, go to or call (855)768-8845 to schedule a free consultation.  

Learn More About “Legislation Legalizing Cannabis” Here

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