Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.
Interviewer: Recreational use of marijuana has been legal in New York for over a year now, but there are so many questions surrounding the legislation in terms of consumption, impaired driving, and marijuana-related convictions. To help me answer these questions, let’s bring in Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.
Hey, Paul. Let’s start with what seems to be one of the easier questions to answer, who can use recreational marijuana? And where can it be used in the state of New York?
Paul: Right. So, recreational marijuana, you got to be 21 years of age or older to use it, and you got to… Where you can use it? Imagine wherever you could smoke tobacco, right? If you take your tobacco product, and it’s okay to do it in X place, then you can use recreational marijuana there.
Interviewer: I think one of the other big questions that people are, you know, having questions for is, how does legalization of recreational marijuana impact or change the handling of impaired drivers here in New York?
Paul: Yeah, so they don’t have a great answer to this. I mean, you could never drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, right? So, normally what would happen is somebody would think…an officer would think after an accident that this person may be unable to drive. They may be impaired because of drugs, because they do the alcohol breathalyzer test, comes up nothing, but the person is acting in such a way. So, what they thought they would have, prior to legalization, they’d have the equivalent of the alcohol breathalyzer test, but they don’t.
So, if you are pulled over, and you have consumed marijuana, and maybe you are unable to or shouldn’t be driving your vehicle, the only way they’re gonna find that out is going to do…is going to be a blood test. And even then, it’s super difficult. So, it’s not solved. They’re working on it. So, right now, they do what they call a road sobriety test. You kind of have your walk, and, you know, touch your nose, that kind of stuff, but difficult to prove in a court of law.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the people who might have a prior criminal conviction stemming from marijuana-related crimes. What is the impact of this legislation on those type of individuals?
Paul: So, the word is expungement. It’s a big fancy word that says, “Hey, we’re gonna get rid of any crimes that you had that meet this criteria.” So, it should happen automatically. If you’d had a prior possession of marijuana charge, it should just be expunged. It should just be gone. You don’t have to really do anything, but you should check to make sure that is the case. And there is a website that you can use to in New York State. But the real situation here is going to be, can they expunge the stuff that is not legal now?
So, the new law says you can have up to three ounces of marijuana. Well, what if I was convicted of seven ounces or seven pounds, right? Those convictions technically aren’t going to go away, but I would suspect that with expungement, you could still make an effort. It’s not going to be automatic, but you make an effort to have it withdrawn. And I think a lot of those cases are going to be withdrawn, clean up your record. Start fresh.
Interviewer: That’s Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. We always appreciate the time.
Paul: Absolutely. Nice talking to you.
Interviewer: And if you have any questions or concerns with your personal rights or freedoms, send us a story, those ideas for us to investigate, and you can read up on all of our past coverage online at cbs6albany.com.