While New York State lawmakers failed to pass a marijuana legalization bill, they did advance a marijuana decriminalization bill to the governor’s desk.

The bill reduces the punishment from a misdemeanor down to a violation.

Gates police chief Jim VanBrederode said the change won’t have much of an effect on law enforcement. He’s more concerned about possible legalization.

“A lot of times people have more significant underlying problems that lead to them smoking marijuana every day or using any other drugs,” said VanBrederode.

He said legalizing marijuana would encourage more drug use. Jason Klimek from ROC Normal disagrees.

“People who use marijuana are not really any more likely to use other hard drugs or if they do take that path it wasn’t the marijuana that put them down that path, they would’ve gone down that path regardless of what the substance was,” said Klimek.

Klimek said decriminalizing is a good first step but he’d like to see full legalization. He said since 2000 there have been 900,000 arrests for possession of marijuana. 80 percent of those were black or Hispanic.

Normal really is looking at the social justice aspects of that and that’s why they’ve been fighting for legalization because as we’ve seen decriminalization doesn’t work and it disproportionately impacts minority communities.”

The penalty for a violation will be $50 for less than one ounce of pot or $200 for one to two ounces.

The bill also allows for the expungement of past convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. An estimated 600,000 New Yorkers could benefit from that part of the bill.