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DA reducing low-level marijuana charges ahead of governor's signature

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Nick Lippa
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WBFO News

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says his office will no longer pursue misdemeanor charges for low-level possession of marijuana, following the state legislature’s passage of a decriminalization bill. Low-level marijuana charges will be reduced non-criminal violations and individuals found guilty of a violation, moving forward, will get a ticket or fine and will not have it appear on their criminal record, the DA announced Wednesday. The new bill will also establish procedures for automatic record expungement, both retroactively and for future convictions.

Flynn said he doesn’t want charges hanging over people’s heads while waiting for the governor to sign the bill.

"In essence, you can have less than two ounces of marijuana and it is now a violation. You can argue whether two ounces is personal use or not. I won't get into that. That's the way the law is," Flynn said.

In the meantime, Flynn is sealing records so they don’t come up in someone’s criminal history.

"If you apply for a Nexus card to go to Canada, they can see records that have been sealed. So, until the expungement comes, it's still going to pop up in some places. But it won't pop up for financial aid. It won't pop up on your college application. It won't pop up if you're applying for a job at Wegmans," Flynn said. 

Flynn said it’s not fair to have to wait for the Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill, which he is expected to do. Once the bill is signed, it will take 30 days to go in to effect.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.