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Is possession of a small amount of marijuana a misdemeanor?

New York’s governor signed into law Bill S06579 and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Because of the increase in medicinal usage, several changes in legislation have followed its legalization. If a law enforcement official finds an individual with less than two ounces, he or she may face a violation that is similar to a traffic ticket. 

Prior to the bill’s passage, possessing about an ounce of marijuana may have resulted in a misdemeanor charge. As reported by the Democrat & Chronicle, an individual found carrying less than two ounces of marijuana may face no more than a civil violation. 

The penalty for having less than one ounce could result in a fine of $50 without spending any time in jail. Punishment for holding between one and two ounces may include a fine of up to $200 and without the previous possibility of incarceration of up to three months. 

Possessing two or more ounces of marijuana, however, may result in a misdemeanor charge. Generally, a judge determines the punishment upon a conviction based on the total amount found and the history of offenses. Whether a defendant had a substantial amount and a proven intent to sell or distribute may elevate the offense up to a felony. 

Can an individual expunge a marijuana offense? 

Since the bill went into effect on August 28, 2019, individuals may apply to expunge a prior record related to a low-level marijuana offense. According to the New York Post, individuals with a Class B misdemeanor or unlawful marijuana possession conviction may see their criminal records automatically expunged. More than 13,000 New York residents may no longer have a marijuana offense disclosed when an employer or landlord conducts a background check.