New York’s drug laws are particularly complex, especially when one is not familiar with them. Take, for example, crimes involving marijuana. The penalties for possessing marijuana vary based on the specific circumstances of the charges. Let’s take a look at the statutes regarding possession of marijuana in the state of New York, and examine the penalties included therein.

Per New York Penal Code Article 221, a person will be found guilty of possessing marijuana based on three elements. One is that the drug is allegedly found in the person’s possession. The second is that the person knows he or she is in possession of marijuana. Finally, the possession of the marijuana is unlawful. It is up to the prosecution to prove these elements. A person who is found guilty of unlawfully possessing marijuana may be subject to a $100 fine. However, if a person has been found guilty of a drug crime during the past three years, the amount of the fine rises to $200. This fine increases to $250 and/or includes a prison term of up to 15 days if the accused previously had been found guilty of two drug crimes.

Moreover, a person will be found guilty of fifth-degree criminal marijuana possession in certain circumstances. These circumstances include if the marijuana was possessed in a public place, for example, through burning or otherwise in the view of the public. In addition, if a person possesses over 25 grams of a substance containing marijuana, the person could be charged with fifth-degree criminal marijuana possession. In essence, the greater the amount of marijuana substances the individual allegedly possesses, the stiffer the penalties, which can range from a fifth-degree offense all the way to a first-degree offense, which is considered a class C felony.

This discussion only scratches the surface of marijuana laws in New York. In addition to the illegal possession of marijuana, there is the illegal sale of marijuana, which will be reviewed in a future post. Like other drug offenses in New York, the charges involving the possession of marijuana can vary widely, as can the penalties associated with them. Therefore, it is important to understand what the law deems is illegal and what the consequences of a conviction are, so that one can establish a sound defense if one finds themselves facing charges.