Marijuana related offenses in New York, have their own special laws with different offense levels and are identified as separate from violations of New York drug laws against possession and sale of  “controlled substances”. Generally, negotiations for offenses involving marijuana are flexible than they might be in cases involving (other) controlled substances.

However, the main issue of concern is not on whether the possession of marijuana is illegal. Instead, the question is the potential punishment and the impact of the charges on the future of the person charged.

Criminal offenses especially charges on possession of drugs (marijuana) and other ‘controlled substances” more often than not goes beyond the criminal case themselves and may even emerge later in a person’s life. It may cause denial of certification and licenses, non issuance of a visa, ineligibility for some financial aid and the list could go on.

It is important to get in touch and consult a criminal lawyer the soonest that marijuana-related charges are filed. This ensures competent representation and favorable negotiations and even dismissal of the case. A lawyer will also provide the best legal options available which in total aims for the protection of the person charged or accused.

New York Marijuana Possession Laws

Unlawful Possession of Marijuana

A person is guilty of unlawful possession when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana.

Unlawful possession is punishable only by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars ($200.00) unless in cases of prior conviction within three years preceding the current violation where;

  • It shall be punishable with a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, if the defendant was previously convicted of one such offense committed during such period
  • It shall be punishable by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars or a term of imprisonment not in excess of fifteen days or both, if the defendant was previously convicted of two such offenses committed during such period.

Ref: (NY PL 221.05)

Criminal Possession of Marijuana (5th to 1st Degree)

The degree and degree of offense against Marijuana possession depends on the manner and quantity it was discovered in.

Fifth degree possession is considered when the Marijuana is discovered to be burning (lit) in open and public view and the aggregate of weight of which is twenty five grams.

It is on the 4th, 3rd and 2nd when it is found to be more than two ounces, eight ounces, sixteen ounces and ten pounds, respectively.

Penalties range from 5 days up to 15 years imprisonment with a fine starting from $100.00 to $5,000.00.

Ref: (NY PL 221.10-30)

Criminal Sale of Marijuana (1st Degree to 5th Degree)

The same with the Possession of Marijuana, the degree of severity of potential punishment also depend on the quantity it is found. Ranging from 2 ounces or less to 10 pounds, the punishment is from 3 months jail time to 15 years plus fines.

Ref: (NY PL 221.35-55)

Is Marijuana Decriminalized in New York?

Technically, yes, it was decriminalized in 1977 , but it is considered one of the weakest decrim laws in the nation.  If you have under 25 grams, and it is out of public view, it should not be a crime to possess marijuana, just a $100 civil fine penalty.

But they still arrest a lot of people for this, partially due to New York’s abuse of “stop and frisk” laws where they get a person to expose their marijuana against a person’s will, or otherwise trick them into pulling it out.

Marijuana Possession Defense Strategies

ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal)

Persons charged with marijuana related offenses in New York may be eligible for ACD or Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. This means that the case will be adjourned for one year. If the person does not get arrested within the period for the same offense, the case will be dismissed and sealed. Technically, this means that the person’s records remain clean.

This is often a good option to avoid more serious potential penalties.