With the passage of the Compassionate Care Act in June of 2014 New York became one of approximately 20 states that allow medicinal use of marijuana.

[1] Then in November of 2014, New York City announced that some marijuana offenses would be decriminalized, for example if an individual is found to possess less than 25 grams of marijuana they will be issued an appearance ticket instead of being arrested.[2] It would seem then, that New York is on the verge of legalizing or at least completely decriminalizing marijuana however this is not the case. Instead, New York stands in limbo, sending mixed messages. On one hand, the legal climate in New York seems to be shifting towards that of Colorado and Washington, but on the other hand, individuals are still being arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for simple possession of marijuana.

Penal Law

In 2014 there were approximately 37,000 marijuana related arrests throughout New York, not counting arrests for Unlawful Possession of Marijuana which is a violation, not a crime.[3] Of those 37,000 criminal arrests, approximately 1,500 were felony level charges.[4] An individual charged with a criminal marijuana offense in New York, depending on the charge, can face anywhere from three months to fifteen years in prison.

Marijuana crimes are divided into two categories under New York’s Penal Law, Criminal Possession of Marijuana and Criminal Sale of Marijuana. Criminal Possession of Marijuana occurs when an individual knowingly possess over twenty-five (25) grams of Marijuana. The weights and corresponding punishments for Criminal Possession of Marijuana are as follows:

Weight Jail/Prison Term
5th Degree: B Misdemeanor 25.1 grams – 2 ounces Up to 3 months
4th Degree: A Misdemeanor 2.1 ounces – 8 ounces Up to 1 year
3rd Degree: E Felony 8.1 ounces – 16 ounces Up to 4 years
2nd Degree: D Felony 16.1 ounces – 10 pounds Up to 7 years
1st Degree: C Felony More than 10 pounds Up to 15 years

Criminal Sale of Marijuana occurs when an individual knowingly and unlawfully sells any substance containing marijuana. The weights and corresponding punishments for Criminal Sale of Marijuana are as follows:

Weight Jail/Prison Term
5th Degree: B Misdemeanor Less than 2 grams or 1 joint Up to 3 months
4th Degree: A Misdemeanor 2 grams – 25 grams Up to 1 year
3rd Degree: E Felony 25.1 grams – 4 ounces Up to 4 years
2nd Degree: D Felony 4.1 ounces – 16 ounces Up to 7 years
1st Degree: C Felony More than 16 ounces Up to 15 years

These charts illustrate that although New York is taking steps toward legalization, they are baby steps because there are still individuals serving significant prison terms for possessing and selling a substance that is legal under other states’ laws. Furthermore although New York has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is not legal in its’ smoke-able form.

Compassionate Care Act

The Compassionate Care Act, named after the lobbying group that worked to get the legislation passed, was enacted in June of 2014. The Act is codified in Article 33 Title V-a of New York’s Public Health Law. The Act establishes a system where private organizations can register to be both manufacturers and distributors of marijuana that will be prescribed to registered patients in New York, by registered doctors.

Currently there are five organizations that are both dispensing and manufacturing medicinal marijuana under the terms of the Act. The law requires that all medicinal marijuana used in New York State be manufactured in New York State. Furthermore, only certain forms of marijuana are able to be used. The current forms approved for use are: liquid or oil preparations for metered oromucosal (administered orally) or sublingual (under the tongue) administration or administration per tube, metered liquid or oil preparations for vaporization, and capsules for oral administration.[5] Marijuana in its’ smoke-able form is not legal under the Act. Below is chart detailing the operations and locations of each registered organization:

Registered Organizations (in alphabetical order) Location Information
Organization Name Facility Type Address County Website
Bloomfield Industries Inc. Manufacturing Queens http://bloomfieldindustries.com/
Dispensing 1304 Buckley Road, Syracuse, NY 13212 Onondaga
Dispensing 52 South Union Road, Williamsville, NY 14221 Erie
Dispensing 2001 Marcus Ave., Lake Success, NY 11042 Nassau
Dispensing Opening Soon New York
Columbia Care NY LLC Manufacturing Monroe http://col-careny.com/
Dispensing 212 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003 New York
Dispensing 345 Cornelia Street, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 Clinton
Dispensing 200 West Ridge Rd., Rochester, NY 14615 Monroe
Dispensing 1333 E. Main St., Riverhead, NY 11901 Suffolk
Etain, LLC Manufacturing Warren http://etainhealth.com/
Dispensing 402 North Pearl Street, Albany, NY 12207 Albany
Dispensing 445 State Route 28, Kingston, NY 12401 Ulster
Dispensing 2140 Erie Boulevard, East Syracuse, NY 13224 Onondaga
Dispensing 55 Main St., 2nd Floor, Yonkers, NY 10701 Westchester
PharmaCann LLC Manufacturing Orange http://www.pharmacannis.com/ny
Dispensing 25 Northpointe Parkway, Amherst, NY 14228 Erie
Dispensing 642 Old Liverpool Road, Liverpool, NY 13088 Onondaga
Dispensing 10 Executive Park Drive, Albany, NY 12203 Albany
Dispensing Opening Soon Bronx
Vireo Health of New York LLC
Formerly Known As Empire State Health Solutions
Manufacturing Fulton http://vireohealthny.com/
Dispensing 221-223 E. Post Road, White Plains, NY 10601 Westchester
Dispensing 89-55 Queens Blvd, Elmhurst, NY 11373 Queens
Dispensing 589 Harry L Drive, Johnson City, NY 13790 Broome
Dispensing Opening Soon Albany


New York’s medical marijuana program, along with restricting what forms of marijuana may be prescribed, also restricts what it may be prescribed for. Only patients with one of the following severe, debilitating or life-threatening conditions may qualify for the Medical Marijuana Program: cancer, positive status for HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, or Huntington’s disease. Patients must also have one of the following associated or complicating conditions: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms.[6]

In order for a patient to receive any approved form of medicinal marijuana, they must:

  • suffer from one of the conditions and symptoms listed above;
  • be certified by a registered physician;
  • then apply online for a registration ID card; and
  • after they receive their ID card, they may purchase medical marijuana from any of the dispensing facilities listed in the chart above.

Although patients receiving medical marijuana will be in compliance with New York State law, they will technically be violating federal law. The Federal government still classifies marijuana as a schedule one drug, meaning that its’ sale and possession can be prosecuted and punished with significant prison sentences. As a result, it is possible for an individual participating in New York’s medical marijuana program to be arrested and prosecuted by the federal government.


While New York has taken a step in the right direction as far as marijuana is concerned, it is a very small step. Unlike other states that have legalized medicinal marijuana in its’ natural form, New York has chosen to restrict its’ medical marijuana program to forms that need to be processed or manufactured. New York has also chosen to restrict its’ program even further by only making medical marijuana available to those individuals who suffer from very serious conditions, most of which usually result in death. This was done despite the fact that there are clearly other individuals who suffer from less serious ailments, who would benefit from medical marijuana’s properties. In addition, New York’s penal law still punishes those accused of mere possession of marijuana with severe penalties including time in state prison. Lastly, although president Obama has said the justice department would not target those patients receiving medical marijuana, there is no way to be sure that the next president will do the same. The situation in New York is representative of the conflict over marijuana that is unfolding all across the country. State governments are attempting to continue to justify placing citizens in prison for possessing the same marijuana that is being legally used by other citizens for health reasons.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave Law Firm are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

[1] http://www.compassionatecareny.org/
[2] http://aplus.com/a/new-york-law-changes
[3] New York State DCJS
[4] Id.
[5] https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/patients/
[6] https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/patients/