Amount and Location of Possession Matters for New York’s Marijuana Laws

Three young people were recently arrested for drug crimes in Pound Ridge, New York after a report of teens throwing beer bottles at passing cars led police to a house party. Two of the youths were minors and were charged with marijuana possession. The third youth, a 22-year-old, was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. In New York, drug charges for marijuana are generally treated differently than drug charges for controlled substances.

The state of New York decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977. In general, decriminalization means an individual does not face prison time or the creation of a criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption. The punishment is similar to a minor traffic violation.

The law is fairly lenient when small amounts of marijuana are used at home. For example, a first offense for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana is considered a civil citation and is punishable by a fine of $100. A second offense for possessing 25 grams or less increases to a $200 fine. For a subsequent offense the fine increases to $250, the offense is considered a misdemeanor, and a maximum of 15 days in jail may be imposed. The law becomes stiffer when marijuana is taken outside of the home and penalties gradually ratchet up for possession of larger amounts.

Possession of any amount of marijuana in public where the marijuana is open to public view or is burning is a class B misdemeanor and is punishable by up to three months in jail, a fine up to $500, or both. Any possession of marijuana greater than 25 grams but less than 2 ounces is punishable similarly. Possession of two to eight ounces of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both. Finally, possession for amounts beyond eight ounces is punishable by mandatory jail time, longer sentences and higher fines. The sale or cultivation of marijuana is also punishable by jail time and fines, depending on the amount, and the penalties rise with the amount of marijuana.

If you have been arrested for possession of marijuana in New York, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights.