During the last legislative session, the New York Senate did not address two bills - previously passed by the Assembly - that would have reformed marijuana laws in the state.
The first bill, referred to as the Compassionate Care Act, would have legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients suffering from one of a variety of serious illnesses, such as cancer or epilepsy. Patients who qualified for the program would have been given the right to possess a maximum of 2.5 ounces of marijuana for medical use at a given time.
Despite the Senate's failure to act on the bill, it reportedly has wide support among New Yorkers. According to a survey conducted by Siena Poll, 82 percent of eligible voters in New York believe medical marijuana use should be allowable in the state.
The second bill would have altered New York's marijuana possession laws. Since 1977, individuals in New York found in possession of a maximum of 25 grams of marijuana have been subject to a non-criminal citation. The penalties for possessing the same amount of marijuana in "public view," however, are more severe, resulting in charges of a misdemeanor.
The bill before the New York Senate would have altered the public view provision, as it has led to the arrest of a large number of people in New York for possession of very small quantities of marijuana. The bill provided that possession of a maximum of 15 grams of marijuana in public view would not lead to criminal charges.
The bill had wide support, particularly in light of the recent study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report found that New York had the most marijuana possession arrests of any state in the country in 2010 - in total, almost 104,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in New York that year.
Of course, with such a large number of arrests comes a large price, as enforcing marijuana laws in New York cost in excess of $675 million. In addition, it takes law enforcement officers around one million hours to make all of the marijuana possession arrests in New York.
Don't settle for a marijuana possession conviction in New York
When individuals are charged with possessing marijuana in New York, they should take action to protect their rights. The penalties for a marijuana possession conviction in New York become more severe depending on the amount of marijuana in the person's possession and whether he or she was found in possession in public view.
The most severe penalties are for those found with over 10 pounds of marijuana. In such cases, if convicted, an individual can face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250.
If you are facing charges of marijuana possession in New York, you should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional to ensure a strong defense is established on your behalf.