New York ‘de-criminalized’ possession of small amounts of marihuana many years ago. That doesn’t mean that marihuana is legal in this state, though. Far from it. Possession of any amount is still ‘unlawful’. And as a recent piece in the New York Times pointed out, a police officer with even the smallest trace of initiative can find a way to upgrade ‘unlawful’ to ‘criminal’.
Penal Law Section 221.05 states that “a person is guilty of unlawful possession of marihuana when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses marihuana.” ‘Unlawful’ is actually a term of art meaning, essentially, “except as expressly permitted by the Public Health Law,” though if you’re a member of the general public you can assume that if you’ve got it you’ve got it unlawfully.
Unlawful possession of marihuana, or UPM, is a violation, not a crime. The fine for a first offense is $100; for a second offense within three years, $200; and for a third offense, $250. For a third offense the court can also (or instead) sentence you to 15 days in jail. Any conviction carries with it a mandatory surcharge: $120 in a city court, $125 in a town court.
Note that if you’ve got more than 25 grams of marihuana you can be charged, in addition to UPM, with a crime: criminal possession of marihuana in the 5th degree (Penal Law Section 221.10). That’s of course for starters. The penalties get worse as the amount of marihuana increases.