New York State Legislature Passes Marijuana Reform Bill Including Positive Changes for Immigrant New Yorkers

Today, the New York legislature reversed years of harmful criminalization by passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which creates a legal recreational marijuana market in New York and expands the medical marijuana program. For years, New York marijuana convictions have caused immeasurable harm to immigrant communities across New York State. Marijuana prohibition has fueled the disproportionate arrest rate of Black and Latinx New Yorkers, the denial of countless residency applications, and the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrants. IDP is proud that New York has passed a bill that recognizes and addresses the harms that marijuana prohibition has caused immigrant communities. 

For many years IDP has been working with Drug Policy Alliance and the Start SMART NY coalition to bring comprehensive marijuana justice to New York. The coalition built a strong platform which centered the concerns and needs of those most harmed by the war on drugs, including immigrants. IDP worked with advocates and elected officials to draft key provisions of the bill that passed today. As a result, many immigrant New Yorkers will be able to vacate old marijuana convictions to clear the path to become residents and citizens or avoid deportation. 

In addition to the vacature provisions essential to relief from deportation, the bill helps immigrant communities by: 

  • reducing remaining criminal penalties for marijuana-related activity, 
  • making possession of marijuana by people under 21-years of age a civil offense instead of a criminal offense, and 
  • redirecting tax revenue to communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition. 

After years of harmful drug policies, the MRTA marks a turning point for New York drug reform. We are thankful to our coalition partners, who fully embraced the need to ensure immigrants were not left out of marijuana reform in New York. Today we celebrate the end of marijuana prohibition with thousands of others across the state.  We look forward to working with you all on the next steps towards marijuana justice and the fight against the unjust immigration laws which still needlessly punish immigrants for drug-related activity. 

Today, IDP is releasing preliminary resources about the marijuana legalization and immigration issues for community members (English and Spanish), immigration attorneys and advocates, and criminal defense attorneys. In the coming weeks and months, IDP will publish additional resources to help immigrants and their advocates navigate the new law. To find out more about IDP’s work on marijuana legalization and immigration, please visit