NEW YORK

Law eases penalties for pot possession

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed a bill Monday that reduces penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and allows the expungement of some past convictions.

The law changes an unlawful possession of marijuana to a violation similar to a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal charge.

Under the new law, the maximum penalty is $50 for possessing less than one ounce of pot and a maximum of $200 for between one and two ounces.

The law requires that records tied to low-level marijuana cases be automatically sealed and creates a process for expungement. It will take effect in 30 days.

Advocates for legal marijuana acknowledge the law is a step forward but also say it falls short of addressing a web of negative consequences that come with keeping marijuana illegal.

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People can still face probation violations and immigration consequences under the decriminalization bill, said Erin George, of Citizen Action of New York.

Melissa Moore, New York state deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the law will continue to allow authorities to target people of color and their communities for marijuana enforcement.

At least 24,400 people will no longer have a criminal record because of the bill, according to New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The law will prompt the sealing of more than 200,000 convictions for low-level marijuana offenses, according to the agency.

State lawmakers considered legalizing marijuana for recreational use this year, but that legislation stalled in the final days of the legislative session.

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— Associated Press

FLORIDA

Man shot outside Miami synagogue

Authorities said Monday that they have yet to determine whether the weekend shooting of a member of a Miami-area synagogue constituted a hate crime, adding they’re still seeking the suspect after the attack outside the temple’s front door.

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The victim, identified by the rabbi as temple member Yosef Lifshutz, was shot several times in the legs Sunday evening and underwent surgery at a hospital, police said. He was listed in stable condition at Aventura Hospital.

Miami-Dade police detective Alvaro Zabaleta told news outlets the attacker got out of a black Chevrolet Impala about 6:30 p.m. Sunday and shot the 68-year-old victim as he approached the front door of the Young Israel of Greater Miami temple.

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The car had circled the temple several times as Lifshutz walked toward the building, Zabaleta told WSVN.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office’s hate crimes unit is reviewing the case, spokeswoman Lissette Valdes-Valle said Monday.

— Associated Press

Two dead after small-plane crash: A flight instructor and her student are dead after the fiery crash of their twin-engine plane at a North Texas airport. The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper PA-34 went down shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday while preparing to land at the municipal airport in Gainesville, about 75 miles northwest of Dallas near the Oklahoma border. The Texas Department of Public Safety said Chinese student pilot Yu Qiu, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene and instructor Francesca Norris, 25, of North Richland Hills died later at a hospital. It's unclear who was in control when the plane went down.

— Associated Press

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