Criminal Possession of Marijuana in New York
There has been much legal debate over the past few years over the legalization of marijuana in the State of New York, as well as many other states. Many people feel that this is a detriment to society as it only condones the use of what once was referred to as illegal substances.
On the other hand, there are many that hope to see marijuana legalized as they swear by its effects. Alternatively, politicians intend to legalize marijuana in order to benefit from the revenue that was only being profited by those running the illegal trade underground. We must first consider the ever-changing ways of society, now that we are in the year 2019.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is a plant, also known as Cannabis. There are several known street names for Marijuana, such as; Weed, Smoke, Maryjane, Pot, Dope, Grass, Devil’s Lettuce or Ganja. Marijuana is classified as a psychoactive drug with various psychoactive properties.
The main part is called tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC. In past years, Marijuana was typically an illegal substance used for recreational purposes. In more recent years, Marijuana is now used for recreational, as well as medicinal purposes.
Marijuana can be smoked or consumed. In recent years and since the dawning of legalization of Marijuana in certain locations, the drug is now available for consumption in a variety of food types commonly referred to as “Edibles.” Edibles are now manufactured in different forms, such as candy – gummies or chocolate, cakes, brownies, waffles, beef jerky, and even tea, just to name a few!
The most recent form of marijuana use is vaping. Vaping allows the user to inhale vapor containing the oils of cannabis. Vaping is similar-to-smoking but, is said to be safer. However, controversial studies on vaping have given conflicting reports.
The old-fashioned ways of smoking marijuana are by rolling the dried leaves into a marijuana cigarette, using a water bong, pipe, emptying the contents of a cigar and filling with dried marijuana leaves – called a blunt, or consuming the dried plant leaves or seeds by mouth.
Many studies and healthcare professionals have felt compelled to advocate for marijuana usage for terminally ill patients. Those suffering from serious illnesses such as Cancer were able to gain much-needed relief through-the-use of marijuana.
Healthcare professionals felt the negative effects on a terminally ill patient did not outweigh the relief provided to patient’s who did not respond well to treatments. Initially, marijuana was said to provide pain relief and a calming effect on patients at the end of their life, when no other treatments were viable.
For example, patients with bone cancer can experience extreme pain as the stages of cancer progress throughout the body. Experts felt that there were no consequences of marijuana use when nearing death. This was the gateway for medicinal legalization, in a case of the pros simply outweigh the cons.
Legal Definitions in New York
The legalization of marijuana in the State of New York has been something the local government has weighed out since the onset of this topic. The initial decision to legalize marijuana was due to the medicinal properties it would provide too many who suffered from pain.
Alternatively, the-majority-of marijuana users use the drug as a means of self-medication for conditions caused by pain, anxiety, and stress. These forms of self-medication are still considered illegal in most counties within New York State. Criminal possession of marijuana can be charged as a violation, misdemeanor, or a felony.
Violations are not classified as crimes in New York. Statistically, most misdemeanor cases are common upon possession of marijuana in smaller quantities intended for personal use. Felonies are commonly classified charges due to possession of larger quantities of marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute within New York State.
According to penal law 221.05 – Unlawful Possession of Marihuana
This charge is a violation (not a crime) in the State of New York. You are guilty of this charge when you knowingly possess marijuana in the State of New York. This is the lowest charge for unlawfully possessing marijuana in New York State and typically accompanies a $100.00 fine.
If you have been previously convicted of this charge (within the last three years), your fine may double to $200.00. Although incarceration is unlikely, if previously convicted would follow a term of a maximum of fifteen days, a $200.00 fine or both.
- For example, a group of young men is loitering at the local mall. One of the men possesses marijuana in his cigarette pack. An officer responds to a complaint that the men are loitering nearby local shops, and customers are becoming uncomfortable moving past the group to enter the shops.
When the officer arrives, two of the young men smell heavily of marijuana. The man with the cigarette pack is asked if he has contained marijuana cigarettes in his pack since he smells as though he has been smoking marijuana.
The man, only twenty-two years old, becomes nervous and confesses to the officer that he does possess half of a “joint” in his pack. The officer issues a field appearance ticket to the young fellow, and he is ticketed with a violation for unlawfully possessing marijuana.
According to penal law 221.10 – Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree
It is a class B misdemeanor. You are guilty of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree when you knowingly possess marijuana in a public place, burn marijuana out in the open or while open to the public view. Additionally, when your compound or substance weighs more than twenty-five grams. For example:
- John and Maria are in a local park after dusk despite the sign being posted that the park closes at dusk. A policeman who patrols the park every thirty minutes spots John and Maria before they spot him. The officer immediately sees and smells the odor of marijuana coming from the couple.
As the officer approaches John and Maria panic and rush to extinguish the marijuana cigarette, but the officer has already witnessed the criminal act. John and Maria still deny the use of marijuana and try to insist that the officer is mistaken. John and Maria are both arrested and charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree.
Upon patting down Maria, the officer finds a pipe containing remnants of marijuana. Maria is additionally charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.
According to penal law 221.15 – Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fourth Degree
Is a class A misdemeanor. You are guilty of criminally possessing marijuana in the fourth degree if you are in possession of substances, compounds, or preparations of marijuana weighing more than two ounces. A class A misdemeanor is punishable by fines, probation, or imprisonment. For example:
- Simon is known around town to be a “stoner.” Simon is on the main street hanging out in front of the local convenience store. Simon is handed something by a car passenger, and he then walks away. A nearby officer decides to watch Simon from an unmarked police car.
A few minutes later, Simon begins a conversation with another male that is walking by. The hidden officer observes Simon step down a small alleyway with a clear Ziplock sandwich bag filled with what appears to be marijuana buds. The officer observes Simon reach into the Ziplock bag and remove marijuana as he places it inside a rolling paper.
Simon hands this completed marijuana cigarette known as a “joint” to the other man! The two are standing in the alleyway, out of sight of the public eye and are seen lighting the joint and passing it back and forth as they chat casually. The officer approaches Simon and explains he has observed Simon with a bag of marijuana and smoking the substance with the other male accomplice.
The officer radio’s for backup, and the two men are searched. The male with Simon has nothing on him except a lighter. Simon is then searched and found with the bag containing 2.2 ounces of marijuana. Simon is charged with criminally possessing marijuana in the fourth degree.
According to penal law 221.20 – Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Third Degree
It is a class E felony. You are guilty of felony criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree when you knowingly and illegally possess one or more substance, compound, or preparation of marijuana. This crime becomes a felony when you possess more than eight ounces of marijuana within the State of New York.
A felony conviction can follow a sentence of fines, probation, or imprisonment of one year or longer. For example:
- Jerry is driving along the expressway with a couple of passengers in his vehicle. Earlier that day, Jerry received a phone call from his friends asking he take them to a nearby hotel while their apartment is painted. When the two approached Jerry’s car, they have placed a few bags of luggage in Jerry’s trunk. As Jerry enters the expressway, he does not realize his right rear taillight is not working.
As Jerry is heading to the hotel, an officer begins to follow him and flashes his sirens for Jerry to pull over. Jerry feels no concern figuring it is a routine traffic stop. As he pulls the vehicle into the shoulder, Jerry’s passenger runs from the vehicle and into the woods, leaving Jerry and the other passenger in the car to deal with the situation.
The officer immediately radios for assistance in locating the man running through the woods. The officer explains that initially, this was a routine traffic stop, but now it is an investigation due to the suspicious activity of the missing passenger. Jerry is bewildered by the actions of his passenger and immediately complies by telling the officer he has no idea what just happened.
The other passenger remains quiet and declines to speak to anyone involved. The officer asks Jerry permission to search the vehicle, and he has now become very nervous upon realizing the running man left baggage in the trunk.
Jerry is unaware of what is in the bags but, the passenger evading the officer so spontaneously is a clear indication that Jerry is in over his head! Jerry explains this to the officer. The officer advises Jerry whatever is in the trunk is his responsibility as he owns the vehicle, and the other passenger is not cooperating. Jerry declines a search of his vehicle as he is very worried.
The officer calls in a canine unit to investigate the vehicle for illegal substances. Of course, the drug-detecting dog alerts his handler right away that there are drugs in the trunk. The officers now have the right to open the trunk and confirm the canine’s findings.
Upon opening one of the bags, the officer finds black bags containing 8.5 ounces of illegal marijuana. Jerry now knows why his passenger took off! Jerry and the passenger both deny any knowledge of the marijuana. However, both are charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree.
According to penal law 221.25 – Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Second Degree
It is a class D felony. You are guilty of felony criminal possession of marijuana in the second degree if you possess a total weight of compounds, substances, or preparations weighing sixteen ounces or more.
This charge is possibly indicative of drug dealing of marijuana if the buds are placed in separate packaging, which is typical when the substances are being sold on the underground market. A class D felony is punishable by fines, probation, and one-year or longer imprisonment.
- Janet is driving while she is intoxicated; she is swerving in and out of her lane. Janet inevitably blacks out and crashes into a parked car. When the police and ambulance arrive, Janet is unconscious. After removing Janet from the vehicle, the responders immediately discover a large black package on the passenger floor.
The police determined it flew out from under the seat during the accident and a tear in the plastic packaging proves it to be a large quantity of marijuana. The total contents of the drug weighed out to be 1.5 lbs. The police realize this is felony possession and visit the hospital to charge Janet formally.
Janet is finally conscious and explains to the officer she was heavily intoxicated because she had a falling out with her boyfriend over money that he had stolen from her. Janet realizes her drug stash was in plain sight, but due to her inability to hide the drugs during the crash, she realizes she cannot deny the drugs in her possession.
Janet is then charged with felony possession of marijuana in the second degree, as well as driving while intoxicated.
According to penal law 221.30 – Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the First Degree
It is a class C felony. You are guilty of criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree when you possess one or more compounds, substances, or preparations of marijuana. If you are in possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana in New York State, you are guilty of a class C felony.
A class C felony conviction can result in fines, probation, or at least one-year imprisonment. This charge (as well as the other charges) may also accompany other charges if drug dealing or drug paraphernalia is suspected. For example:
- Two brothers are sitting in a park. The pair are hanging around casually as a car pulls up with marijuana smoke coming from the open windows. The older brother, who is wearing a backpack, then heads towards the driver’s side as the younger brother approaches the passenger side.
As the older brother hands the backpack to the driver, the younger brother receives an envelope from the passenger. Unfortunately, the surrounding neighbors of the park have made several complaints about the brothers and their on-going drug actively. The police department has been investigating the group for weeks!
The officer’s approach the vehicle and all four of those involved while demanding they get down on the ground and cooperate. The younger brother is the first to be searched, and the officer immediately finds the envelope containing ten thousand dollars in cash. The older brother is also then searched, and the officers find a bag containing individually wrapped bags of marijuana in smaller amounts.
The odor of marijuana, the individual bags of the substance, and cash are a clear indication of drug dealing by the group. Upon further search, the officers find over ten pounds of marijuana in the backpack. All four men are charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree.
Controversy in the Legalization of Marijuana.
Marijuana will always be a controversial subject. Some of those who advocate for marijuana even decline to agree that it is a drug, feel arrests made for marijuana are a waste of time and tax dollars and feel marijuana is a safe alternative to harsh medications.
Others fear legalizing marijuana will further cause issues within society due to the health-risks both mentally and physically. Marijuana use is said to have increased the statistics on DWI, causes users to be less active.
New York City and other County opting into legalizing the drug.
As it stands currently, New York City and Ulster County appear to be willingly opting into legalizing the drug. Long Island has agreed to opt out of the legalization at this time in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, while many of the counties in New York State remain undecided.
However, one fact remains the same; drug dealing, illegal supplies of marijuana, and underage use of the drug will never be legalized.
Some seem to feel that if the drug is legalized, less time and effort will be spent on the war on drugs when it comes to marijuana. Any legal distribution will always come with regulations, require mandatory inspections and detailed records.
In the event of nationwide legalization, the underground market will still be prosecuted, no different than the illegal manufacturing of moonshine outside of the alcoholic beverage market. The biggest benefit to New York State residents may be the refocus that would take place on the stiffer drugs such as cocaine and heroin. As for now, marijuana is still considered illegal in the State of New York, apart from Medical use.