New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, aka, the MRTA, ushered in a new era for the legalization of marijuana (previously codified as “marihuana”). What it did not do, however, was create a carte blanche permission slip for every resident of or visitor to New York City, or one of its surrounding suburban municipalities such as those dotting Westchester County, to unfettered cannabis possession or sale. In fact, it established a new article of the Penal Law that practically supplants marijuana’s old Penal Law Article 221. With the codification of Penal Law Article 222, District Attorneys will now prosecute, and criminal lawyers defend, sections 222.25, 222.30, 222.35, 222.40, 222.45, 222.50, 222.55, 222.60, and 222.65. Sound like a lot? Well, from non-criminal violations to life alteringly grave felony offenses, it certainly has the potential to be quite significant even if not on par with some of the more serious controlled substance and prescription medication crimes.
Penal Law 222.25 Unlawful Possession of Cannabis
Simply, if you knowingly and unlawfully possess cannabis or concentrated cannabis weighing in excess of three ounces or twenty-four grams respectively, you are guilty of a violation punishable by a fine equal to or less than $125.00. A violation is not a crime.
Penal Law 222.30 Third Degree Criminal Possession of Cannabis
Unlike the lesser Unlawful Possession, it is a crime to knowingly and unlawfully possess in excess of sixteen or fifty-three ounces or more of cannabis or concentrated cannabis respectively. If you do so, you are guilty of this class “A” misdemeanor and face a potential sentence of up to one year in jail.
Penal Law 222.35 Second Degree Criminal Possession of Cannabis
Possession becomes a class “E” felony if you knowingly and unlawfully have more than five or two pounds of cannabis or concentrated cannabis respectively. A conviction for this offense can leave you facing as little as one but as great as one- and one- half years in prison as well as one year post release supervision.
Penal Law 222.40 First Degree Criminal Possession of Cannabis
The most serious of all possession offenses, you run afoul of this class “D” felony if you have in excess of ten or four pounds of cannabis or concentrated cannabis respectively. Upon conviction a judge could sentence you for as much as one to two- and one-half years in prison followed by one year post release supervision.
Penal Law 222.45 Unlawful Sale of Cannabis
Not a crime, if you unlawfully sell or give cannabis or the concentrated variety, even if amounts that by themselves do not violate otherwise legal possession, you are guilty of a violation and face a fine not to exceed $250.
Penal Law 222.50 Third Degree Criminal Sale of Cannabis
A sale, even if not for money, becomes a class “A” misdemeanor when you knowingly and unlawfully provide more than three ounces of cannabis or twenty-four grams of the concentrated substance to another person. Additionally, if you are twenty-one or older and sell or cause to be given either form of cannabis to an underage person no matter the amount, you are also guilty of this crime and also face up to one year in jail. Keep in mind that it is a defense to this latter subdivision if you are less than three years older than the recipient.
Penal Law 222.55 Second Degree Criminal Sale of Cannabis
You are guilty of this class “E” felony if you knowingly and unlawfully sell more than sixteen ounces of cannabis or even the slightest bit more than five ounces of concentrated cannabis. Additionally, prosecutors can charge you with this offense if you, being at least twenty-one years old, sell or give in excess of three ounces of cannabis or more than twenty-four grams of concentrated cannabis to someone who is under the age of eighteen. The potential penalty for this crime is as great as one to one- and one-half years in custody as well as one year supervision upon your release.
Penal Law 222.60 First Degree Criminal Sale of Cannabis
When you knowingly and unlawfully sell these “drugs” in an amount more than five pounds for cannabis and two pounds for the concentrated type, you will find yourself charged with and potentially indicted for this class “D” felony. If convicted, the law allows for one to two- and one-half years in prison along with one year post release supervision.
Penal Law 222.65 Aggravated Criminal Sale of Cannabis
Although there is an enormous gap between the amounts of cannabis or concentrated cannabis when comparing this crime to the First Degree offense, you breach the threshold here if you knowingly and unlawfully sell any type of cannabis in an amount exceeding one hundred pounds. Should you do so, you would face a class “C” felony and as much as one- and one-half to five years in prison for a first offense followed by one- and one-half to three years post release supervision.
Ultimately, the MRTA not only decriminalizes cannabis and marijuana in general, but it sets the framework for what is legal to both possess and sell. While one could certainly argue the code allows for fairly light penalties along with high thresholds in terms of what you can lawfully have or give to another person before you find yourself in serious trouble, there definitely are some teeth for enforce compliance and the law.
To learn more about New York drug crimes and to review the sentencing guidelines for these drug related offenses, please review the relevant pages at New-York-Lawyers.org including the link to the MRTA above.
A New York criminal defense law firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout the New York City region and elsewhere in the State of New York.