July 29 (UPI) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Monday to decriminalize possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana, and reduced the penalty for unlawful possession to a fine.
The new law was championed as a compromise with opponents who fought against the legal commercial sale of marijuana. It also creates a process for persons convicted of certain marijuana crimes to have their records expunged.
The law will take effect in 30 days.
"Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all," Cuomo said in a statement. "By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process."
New York Republicans have fought vigorously against legalizing pot, as well as the law to strip away penalties.
"This is going to hurt people," State Sen. Andrew J. Lanza said last month.
State Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the new law is "essential" to reforming New York's justice system.
"Decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records ... will go a long way toward helping our communities, and especially people of color, who have been devastated by them," Heastie said.
New York is the latest state to ease regulations against the drug, which is now fully legal in several states and much more accepted in many communities than it's ever been.