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Op-Ed: After Cannabis Legalization, NY Needs an Automatic Expungement Law

Emma Goodman, a staff attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society, urged lawmakers to expand automatic expungement to all offenses in an opinion piece for City Limits. Currently, the expungement process established in the cannabis legalization law that was passed in late March only applies narrowly to specific cannabis offenses, leaving many New Yorkers with residual criminal records.

Goodman urged lawmakers to consider the haunting economic and social effects that such a disparity introduces for New Yorkers disadvantaged by old criminal records – including “denied jobs, housing, education, life insurance, loans, child custody, licensure and more.”

“We use the term ‘collateral consequences,’ but there is nothing collateral about them. They are part of the punishment,” Goodman writes. “They are intentional. They are lifelong barriers to full participation. They are an endless sentence to poverty. They are at the very root of the systemic inequality that we must address. Our current application-based system doesn’t do enough. Piecemeal, charge-specific expungement doesn’t do enough.”

Read the full piece here.