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LAS Advocacy Leading the Way for National Pot Expungement

Emma Goodman, a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society, was featured in a Law360 article on New York’s groundbreaking Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act – a law multiple Legal Aid attorneys helped to draft which was signed into law in March.

The legislation will provide for the automatic expungement of hundreds of thousands of cannabis-related convictions – the vast majority of them of people of color. It also legalizes adult personal use of cannabis and drastically downgrades penalties for illegal use, eliminating many of the most harmful and destructive effects that had characterized marijuana prosecutions of otherwise law-abiding New Yorkers.

The law sits at the cutting edge of the national conversation concerning a shift away from excessively punitive approaches to restorative social justice, with several other states now following suit and exploring their own expungement measures.

MRTA will also create and regulate a legal marketplace for cannabis sales that advocates foresee as providing a form of reinvestment into communities that have been most impacted by these laws.

“We incorporated a lot of things that other states have been doing and really pushed for a progressive holistic bill that really addressed not just the need for legalization, but the need for helping communities that have been impacted by decades of over-policing. I think this bill does that in a way that other states haven’t accomplished,” said Goodman. “Some people have actually called it a reparations bill. In some ways, it is.”