The New York Criminal Law Blog

The Status of the Legalization of Marijuana in New York

In his 2013 State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked about cannabis legislation, suggesting that perhaps it was time to loosen the laws a bit in New York.

But that won't be an easy step for the governor. New York has some stringent marijuana laws on the books. Since 1977, marijuana possession has been a misdemeanor in New York, subjecting offenders to a fine if the drug is not in public view.

That being said, possession of amounts under 25 grams won't typically amount to a criminal possession, but still falls under the "unlawful" category. It's a civil offense. Possession of up to 25 grams (0.88 ounces) is punishable by a fine of $100 for a first-time offender.

As we move up the chain, a second offense within a three-year period is punishable by a fine of $200. And for a third offense in the same period, you're looking at a fine of $250, with possible jail time of up to 15 days.

Of course, put it in public view or light it up in public, and you could be arrested for a Class B misdemeanor, with a fine of $250 and a maximum jail sentence of 90 days.

Growing or cultivating cannabis is a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in prison, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. What's interesting, however, is how the penalties for selling drug paraphernalia are much harsher than those for growing cannabis.

The use or sale of scales and balances used or designed for the purpose of weighing cannabis is also a crime. It's a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in prison. That's just for the first offense, however. Get caught doing it again, and you're looking at a Class D felony, with up to 7 years in prison.

Of course, the grower will likely face harsh penalties when the sale or trafficking offense is tacked on to the cultivation offense. Then, we're looking at even longer prison terms.

Gov. Cuomo is proposing the idea of decriminalizing possession that is in public view, if the quantity is 15 grams (about a half ounce) or less, Gothamist reports. This would reduce it from a misdemeanor to a violation.

Let's see where that goes.

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