New York States law to further decriminalize low-level marijuana offenses officially goes into effect 30 days after the governor signs the bill.
The legislation will change some misdemeanor charges, like smoking in public, to violations.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, who has already been working on getting judges to dismiss outstanding bench warrants for low-level offenses, said he's taking more preemptive action.
"I don't think it's fair to have this hanging over people's heads until the bill becomes law,” he said. “For all pending B Misdemeanor cases, I'm going to, on my own, reduce them down to a violation right now and going forward, any new arrests that occur now and when the law takes effect after the governor signs the bill, I'm going to reduce them too to a violation."
The law also will require the state to expunge potentially hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related criminal records.
"It may be simple where they can go through a computer and just press buttons,” he said. “I don't know but I anticipate that's going to take some time and some logistics to get worked out."
Flynn said he doesn't individually have the power to expunge records ahead of the law going into effect - but he can do the next best thing and expedite sealing records.
"If you make a motion, I will consent to it and we'll get the judge to sign it right away," he said.
The DA believes the decriminalization bill effectively addresses a major problem with marijuana in New York State - the disproportionate impact it has on minority communities.
He said the other main reason to legalize has to do with the revenue the industry can generate and he hopes the state Legislature considers that moving forward.
"I'm not going to weigh in here. I'm just going to ask the question, okay,” he said. “The question is, are we going to put money, are we going to put the almighty tax dollar ahead of the health and safety of our citizens."
Flynn said he's not come out for or against marijuana legalization but admits he does have concerns about people driving under the influence and children having access to the drug.