Marijuana Possession & Trafficking
Under New York law, marijuana-related offenses are separate and distinct from crimes involving “controlled substances”. In New York, marijuana is actually not a controlled substance: it is covered by its own specific laws and offense categories.
- State Penalties for Possession and Trafficking of Marijuana:
Possession of less than 2 ounces in marijuana in a non-public location is unlawful possession of marijuana, which can result in a fine up to $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second. Third-time offenders can be punished by a fine of up to $250 and 15 days in jail. If someone is arrested for possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana in a public place, they can be charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the 5th degree, which is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 3 months in jail. The same charge and penalty applies if someone is caught selling 2 grams or less or one cigarette of marijuana. If the amount possessed totals more than 2 ounces, the crime is criminal possession of marijuana in the 4th degree, a Class A misdemeanor that can result in one year in jail. If someone is caught selling between 2 ounces and 25 grams of marijuana, the same charges and penalties apply. Possession of 8 ounces or more is criminal possession of marijuana in the 3rd degree, a Class E felony with a penalty of 1- 1½ years in prison for a first offence and 2-2½ years for repeat offenders. Selling over 25 grams but less than 4 ounces of marijuana draws the same charge and penalty. Possession of 16 ounces or more of marijuana is classified as criminal possession of marijuana in the 2nd degree, which is a Class D felony. First-time offenders could be sent to prison for 1- 2½ years while second time offenders may face up to 4-4½ years. An arrest for possession of 10 pounds or more of marijuana is criminal possession of marijuana in the 1st degree, a Class C felony punishable by 1-5½ years in prison for a first offense and 8-9 years for repeat offenders. Selling 4 ounces or more (but less than 16 ounces) of marijuana is criminal sale of a controlled substance in the 2nd degree, a Class D felony punishable by 1-2½ years in prison for a first offence and 4-4½ years for a second. If someone is arrested for selling 16 ounces or more, the charge is criminal sale of a controlled substance in the 1st degree, a Class C felony that can lead to 1 -5½ years in prison for a first offence and 8-9 years for a second.
- When is the best time to act?:
If you have been charged with possession and / or trafficking of marijuana, you should consult a criminal defense attorney immediately. Although marijuana-related crimes are not punished as severely as those involving controlled substances, any kind of criminal record has a serious impact on your future.
- Related Crimes:
Attempt to Commit Conspiracy, Conspiracy, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Difference between New York state and Federal statutes:
On the federal level, a first conviction for marijuana possession can result in 1 year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000. A second conviction is punishable by anywhere between 15 days and 2 years in jail and a minimum fine of $2,500. A third conviction can incur a minimum time in jail of 90 days and a maximum period of 3 years, and a fine of $5,000. Sale or possession with intent to sell less than 50 kg of marijuana is punishable by 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. If the amount is more than 50 kg but less than 100 kg, the offense can lead to a 20 year prison term and $1,000,000 fine. 100kg and more is punishable by 5-40 years in prison and a fine of $2,000,000.
- Successful Defenses:
Unlawful search and seizure, proof that the marijuana belonged to another party, proof that the marijuana was planted, entrapment, and mental disease / defect are acceptable defenses.
- High profile/government cases:
On March 15, 2013, the Manhattan District Attorney announced the indictment of eighteen defendants for the possession and sale of marijuana and crack cocaine in East Harlem. They operated near East 118th Street and Lexington Avenue and packaged the substances in Sour Power candy wrappers.