Laws about marijuana are in a state of flux around the country. More states legalize both recreational and medicinal use every year, while municipalities decriminalize possession. New York is one of those local authorities that has taken steps to decriminalize marijuana. Those who regularly use this plant need to understand, however, that decriminalization only protects those using natural state marijuana.
At the same time that more places and governments are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, more people who use the plant are turning to concentrated forms, such as butane hash oil (BHO), also called dabs, wax or shatter. The possession of marijuana concentrates is not included in local decriminalization policies, meaning that those caught in possession of concentrates still face criminal penalties.
Understanding what decriminalization covers
Although decriminalization has led to a decrease in marijuana-related arrests in New York, only certain marijuana offenders receive protection from this new approach. First time offenders with as much as 25 grams of marijuana in their possession face only a fine of $100. Second offenses in a three year period with an amount of 25 grams or less will result in a $200 fine, while a third offense within three years could result in a fine of $250 and up to 15 days in jail.
It's also important to note that the marijuana should be hidden or on private property. Openly displaying marijuana in public is also still a crime. Those in possession of more than 25 grams, with a criminal history or in possession of marijuana concentrates could still face misdemeanor or even felony criminal charges for marijuana.
Concentrates have risks that may outweigh any benefits
There are a number of reasons why regular marijuana users have moved away from smoking the plant in its natural state. One of them stems from law enforcement. The strong smell associated with marijuana is often the reason for a search and later arrest.
Concentrates have less smell and are easier to hide or contain than bulky dried plant matter. Those who have a medical need can take a much higher dose more quickly with concentrates, often by vaporizing instead of smoking, which is better for the lungs.
However, the risks associated with possession of concentrates are quite serious. People may assume that the 25 gram limit applies to concentrates, too, but that could be a major mistake. In reality, possession of any amount under a quarter of an ounce will result in a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and as long as a year in jail.
Possession of a quarter ounce or more could bring felony charges, which carry up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Possession of an ounce or more is a felony with a 15 year prison penalty, as well as a maximum fine of $15,000.