New York Marijuana

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States. In recent years its use has increased as a decreasing number of people believe that it is risky or unsafe. While an increasing number of jurisdictions across the country are legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is still generally illegal for recreation purposes. In New York it is illegal to possess and to sell marijuana. However, the penalties for marijuana charges are significantly less severe than penalties for drug crimes related to controlled substances. In fact, while possessing small amounts of marijuana is illegal, it is not a crime but a violation. Despite the fact the crimes related to marijuana are generally not considered to be as serious as crimes related to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, arrests related to marijuana crimes are the most common arrests in New York. Over 50,000 people are arrested each year on marijuana charges. While many of these cases are for small amounts, resulting in small fines or brief periods of incarceration, marijuana drug crime convictions can also lead to long prison sentences. If you have been arrested and charged with a marijuana drug crime, you should immediately contact an experienced New York marijuana lawyer who understands the laws related to marijuana and who will aggressively defend you against these charges. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have decades of experience representing clients who have been charged with drug crimes and other serious crimes such as assault, domestic violence and sex crimes. Find out what we can do for you by contacting us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

Marijuana offenses

New York law has two types of marijuana offenses: possession of marijuana and sale of marijuana.

Possession offenses

When compared to drug possession charges related to controlled substances, charges related to marijuana possession are less harsh. In fact, of the 6 possession of marijuana charges, 1 is a violation, 2 are misdemeanors, and 3 are felonies.

  • Unlawful possession of marijuana is knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.05. It is a violation with a penalty of a fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail. The threshold amount that will take unlawful possession of marijuana to misdemeanor criminal possession of marijuana is 25 grams.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree is knowingly and unlawfully having at least 25 grams of marijuana. You will also face this charge if you have marijuana in a public place and burn it or display it in public view, even if the amount you have is less than 25 grams. It is a class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.10. The possible sentence is up to 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree is knowingly and unlawfully possessing at least 2 ounces or marijuana. It is a class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.15. The possible sentence is up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree is knowingly and unlawfully possessing at least 8 ounces or marijuana. It is a class E felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.20. The possible sentence is up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the second degree is knowingly and unlawfully possessing at least 16 ounces or marijuana. It is a class D felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.25 . The possible sentence is up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree. This is the most serious marijuana charge. It is knowingly and unlawfully possessing at least 10 pounds of marijuana. It is a class C felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.30. The possible sentence is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Sale offenses

Selling marijuana is considered more egregious than possessing it. This means that it does not take as much marijuana to amount to a felony sale of marijuana charge. Furthermore, the term "sell" has a broad meaning. It means more than exchanging marijuana for cash. It means exchanging marijuana for money or something else, disposing of it to another person, or giving it away to another person. It also means offering or agreeing to sell.

  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the fifth degree is giving away 2 grams or less of marijuana or one marijuana "joint." It is a class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.35. The possible sentence is up to 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the fourth degree involves selling 25 grams or less of marijuana. It is a class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.40. The possible sentence is up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the third degree involves selling more than 25 grams of marijuana. It is a class E felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.45. The possible sentence is up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the second degree involves selling more than 4 ounces of marijuana. You will also face this charge if you sell marijuana to someone who is less than 18 years old. It is a class D felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.50. The possible sentence is up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the first degree involves selling more than 16 ounces of marijuana. It is a class C felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.55. The possible sentence is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Penalties for marijuana offenses

Like other drug crimes there is a wide range of possible punishments for marijuana crimes based on whether the offense is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, and if a felony, the degree. Courts will look at your criminal history to determine your exact sentence. If you do not have any prior convictions, the court will give you a lower sentence then if you have one or more prior felony convictions.

If you meet certain eligibility requirements, the court may offer you the option of an alternative sentencing program called Drug Treatment Court. The primary eligibility requirements are that you must have a substance abuse problem and that you must be likely to benefit from the Drug Treatment Court Program. Typically, you will only be considered for the program if you are facing a charge for a B, C, D or E drug crime charge. If the court feels that you are a candidate for the program, you will have to plead guilty to the criminal charges against you and then accept the offer to enter the program. If you successfully complete the treatment program and abide by the other conditions of Drug Treatment Court, the judge may give you a reduced sentence for the criminal charges or the judge may even dismiss the charges.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Whether or not you view a marijuana crime as a "big deal," the law views marijuana offenses as serious. A conviction for the lowest level marijuana crime will leave you with a criminal record with a drug crime conviction. Because of the potential consequences, you should immediately contact an attorney who has experience defending those accused of marijuana offenses. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been accused of marijuana possession, marijuana distribution, as well as other drug crimes. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of drug crimes in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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