Unlawful Possession of Marijuana in New York (PL s. 221.05)


Marijuana use is prevalent in Ithaca as I imagine it is in every college town in the USA.  We defend plenty of students charged with various “weed-related” crimes. Although some states have legalized marijuana (i.e. Colorado), New York is not one of them.   New York has de-criminalized possessing a small amount of marijuana (less than 25 grams or 7/8 of an ounce), but it is still illegal and subject to a $100 fine. 

Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Penal Law, s. 221.05)

[violation not a crime]

A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana [less than 25 grams]. 


  1. Up to 15 days in jail (for third or more offense ONLY)
  2. $0-$100 fine (first offense);  $0-$200 (second offense in 3 yrs); 

$0-$250 (third offense in 3 yrs)

  1. Court surcharges $120 city court or $125 town court
  2. 1 year Conditional Discharge (on 3rd offense only--no new arrests)

If New York has "de-criminalized" having a small amount of weed, then what's the big deal? 


Under Federal Law, Marijuana is considered an illegal CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE, and pleading guilty to the lowest marijuana possession charge in New York (i.e. Unlawful Possession of Marijuana) will have to be disclosed on a FAFSA application for Federal Student Loans It may cause loans to be denied for students with possession convictions (even at the NY violation level) or cause federal student aid to be significantly reduced.  

Here's the text from the FAFSA.gov website:  (if you are eligible for federal student aid...)

  • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans). If you have such a conviction, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine if you are eligible for aid or partially eligible for aid.

A "UPM" charge is serious if you are dependent on Federal Student Aid (or may be in the future, i.e. graduate school).  It is in your best interests to find a local attorney who knows the challenges you're facing both in a criminal sense--and an educational sense. 


There is a law in New York that allows for an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ("ACD") for a first offense marijuana charge.  It is Criminal Procedure Law, s. 170.56.  We often represent students with this strategy to get their UPM charge dismissed so as to protect their ability to maintain or get federal student aid for college or graduate school in the USA.  


Yes.  Getting any marijuana charge dismissed pursuant to CPL 170.56 requires an attorney to draft a thorough motion and to argue it before a Judge.  That will give you the best possible chance to get your marijuana possession charge dismissed.  

In these cases where your federal student aid is in jeopardy, the most important thing is to protect your future. 

Call us if you are charged with a Marijuana offense in New York:  607-229-5184

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