New York Marijuana Laws: Is Marijuana Legal in New York?

According to New York marijuana laws, possession of marijuana is illegal in New York state. If you have less than 25 grams of marijuana, you will be charged a $100 fine on a first offense, $200 on the second, and a third violation carries a $250 fine and a possible 15-day jail term. However, New York cannabis laws allow the use of medical marijuana.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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According to New York Marijuana Laws, possession of marijuana is generally illegal in New York. However, the Compassionate Care Act, which was passed in New York in 2014 provides for a medical marijuana program that allows patients who are suffering from a specified serious condition to obtain marijuana for medicinal use from licensed dispensaries. Patients must be certified to have qualifying conditions by their physicians and must have a registry identification medical marijuana card in order to obtain approved medical marijuana products from a dispensary. Visit the New York Medical Marijuana website to learn more about New York’s medical marijuana program.

If you’ve been charged with illegal possession of marijuana and seek help from an attorney, enter your ZIP code below.

What are the penalties for the possession of marijuana in New York?

If you are arrested for charges relating to illegal possession of marijuana in New York, the penalties you face will often depend on the amounts of marijuana found by law enforcement officers and your intended use for the recreational marijuana in your possession. Unlike many other states, New York does not have laws that differentiate between the penalties for possession of immature plants and ready-to-use marijuana. New York’s marijuana penalties are based entirely on the weight of the amount of recreational weed possessed. The penalty for possession ranges from fines to incarceration, and can also include court-imposed marijuana addiction treatment. Because of New York’s reliance on weight, individuals stopped with smaller amounts such as a joint or two for personal use face much lesser penalties from a marijuana arrest than those who have large amounts or who intend to sell the marijuana. Individuals possessing synthetic forms of marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinols) or marijuana concentrates like hashish typically face criminal charges with stiffer penalties than those who possess actual, organic marijuana. Surprisingly, the marijuana-imitating substance known as K2 (which contains cannabinoids) is still legal in New York, yet there is no marijuana decriminalization law in the state.

You do not have to be caught in the act of selling marijuana to face charges for an attempt to distribute marijuana. Possessing a large amount of marijuana, measuring equipment, baggies, or other paraphernalia can be enough to warrant a charge for the intended sale of marijuana, and all will be used as evidence of your intent to sell. The table below illustrates the penalties individuals face for specific acts related to the possession and distribution of marijuana under New York drug laws. Keep in mind that separate penalties exist and can be enforced under federal law. Because this interplay of state and federal law can often become confusing, consulting an experienced New York criminal attorney can be the best thing you can do to understand the penalties you may face and the defenses that may be available to you.

New York Marijuana Penalties Table

Activity Amount Offense Incarceration (max) 2 Fine (max) Charge
Possession 25 g or less First 1 $100 Violation
Second 1 $200 Violation
Third or more 1 15 days $250 Violation
Over 25 g – 2 oz or amount in public view Any 3 months $500 Misdemeanor (B)
Over 2 oz – 8 oz Any 1 year $1,000 Misdemeanor (A)
Over 8 oz – 16 oz 1st & 2nd Felony 4 years $5,000 Felony (E)
Over 16 oz – 10 lbs 1st & 2nd Felony 7 years $5,000 Felony (D)
Over 10 lbs 1st & 2nd Felony 15 years $5,000 Felony (C)
Distribution Gift 2 g or less or 1 cigarette Any 3 months $500 Misdemeanor (B)
Over 2 g – 25 g Any 1 year $1,000 3 Misdemeanor (A)
Sale 25 g or less
Over 25 g – 4 oz 1st & 2nd Felony 4 years $5,000 3 Felony (E)
Over 4 oz – 16 oz 1st & 2nd Felony 7 years $5,000 3 Felony (D)
Over 16 oz 1st & 2nd Felony 15 years $5,000 3 Felony (C)
Any amount to a child 1st & 2nd Felony 7 years $5,000 3 Felony (D)
  1. Offenses must take place within 3 years of each other to be considered subsequent offenses.
  2. Minimum sentences vary for felonies depending on several circumstances. As such, the table above only includes maximums.
  3. Maximum fines may be increased depending on the amount of money the accused made from the sale of marijuana.

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Trafficking and Cultivation

What is trafficking?

A person is regarded as a major trafficker of marijuana and will be charged with class A-I felony if he:

  • Acts as the director of an organization (which sells $75000 worth of marijuana over the course of a year or less)
  •  Collects $75000 or more from sales of marijuana over the course of 6 months or less
  • Possesses with intent to sell $75000 or more of marijuana over the course of 6 months or less

What is cultivation?

Growing cannabis is a class A misdemeanor. This is a violation punishable by up to 1 year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1000. A person who cultivates marijuana is also possessing marijuana under New York drug laws. Consequently, the more marijuana a person cultivates, the more severe the maximum penalty of the charges will be.

Follow this link for more information about New York Marijuana Laws and the New York Medical Marijuana Program.

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