Erie County District Attorney to Reduce Low-Level Marijuana Charge Ahead of Decriminalization

Modified: July 3, 2019 9:46am

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7/3/2019

Today, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced that his office will no longer pursue misdemeanor charges against individuals arrested for low-level possession of marijuana. All current and incoming cases for those accused of possessing smaller amounts of marijuana will be reduced to non-criminal violations.

This announcement follows the New York State Legislature’s passage of a bill that expands marijuana decriminalization by reducing possession of two ounces (57 grams) or less from a misdemeanor offense to a non-criminal violation. While Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, the law would not go into effect until after 30 days after it is signed.

In the interest of justice, the Erie County DA’s Office will reduce the charge ahead of the decriminalization law going into effect. Individuals who are found guilty of a violation are subject to a ticket or a fine, and their conviction will not appear on their criminal record.  

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute those charged with possession of larger amount of marijuana as well as those charged with selling marijuana, which remains illegal under New York State penal law.

As part of his announcement, Erie County DA John Flynn encouraged any person previously convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree (221.10), a Class “B” misdemeanor, to file a motion to have their criminal record sealed.

The District Attorney’s Office continues to dismiss outstanding bench warrants throughout Erie County. In February, District Attorney Flynn announced that he would vacate outstanding warrants on violation and low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. The initiative began in Buffalo City Court, and his action effectively cleared the entire docket of warrants for low-level marijuana arrests and dismissed the associated charges for 35 individuals who were charged with smoking or possessing marijuana.

Assistant District Attorney Danielle D’Abate, Chief of the Community Prosecution Unit, has been gathering warrant data on marijuana-related offenses, starting with the largest municipalities in the county where individuals have been charged only with violation or misdemeanor marijuana possession.

“With decriminalization legislation expected to be enacted into law, I will no longer pursue a criminal charge against a person for a small amount of marijuana,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “I do not believe people should find themselves in the criminal justice system and unable to apply for employment, student loans, or other services because of a low-level marijuana charge. Also, I encourage anyone with a previous applicable conviction to file a motion to have their record sealed.”