NEWS FLASH: New York’s marijuana possession laws have changed.
You may have heard that New York has taken steps to “de-criminalize” marijuana possession, but you should not take this to mean that “weed has been completely legalized.” What New York HAS done is increased the amount of marijuana for which a “violation” offense may be charged in lieu of a crime. Of critical importance is the fact that a person convicted for a violation does not incur a permanent criminal record. Despite the changes to the law, people can still be arrested, charged, and fined for possessing a small amount of marijuana and these incidents may still lead to devastating immigration consequences.
Under New York’s now-replaced marijuana laws, it was a violation to possess any amount of marijuana under twenty-five grams, but there was a huge caveat: it was a crime to possess any amount of marijuana in a public place that was also “burning” or “open to public view.” In other words, just holding a blunt was enough to put you on the hook for a misdemeanor. Conversely, it was only a violation (and not a crime) to carry a bag of marijuana in your pocket, in the glove compartment of your car or in the privacy of your home. Under the old laws, anyone who possessed a quantity of marijuana over twenty-five grams (even if it was hidden away somewhere) was subject to criminal charges.