Is New York City Handing Out Harsher Penalties For THC Oil Possession?

By Victoria Kim 11/21/18

A new report reveals a major contradiction in the city’s ongoing efforts to reform marijuana enforcement.

Researcher holding a cannabis leaf and THC oil which carries harsher penalties in New York City

Getting caught with a cartridge of THC oil can land you in jail in New York City—despite city officials’ promise to decriminalize marijuana offenses.

A new report by The Appeal highlights the disparity in the city’s enforcement of possession of THC oil versus marijuana in its raw form.

“Cannabis oil possession carries a harsher charge than regular marijuana possession,” The Appeal reports.

“Because the oil is classified as a controlled substance, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor, the same class used for low-level heroin and crack possession. Those convicted of the charge can be sentenced to up to a year in jail.”

The fact that police officers are still treating THC oil possession as a criminal misdemeanor contradicts the city’s ongoing efforts to reform marijuana enforcement.

On Sept. 1st, the city enacted a new policy to ticket instead of arrest people for public marijuana smoking. Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed that the new policy would reduce marijuana possession arrests by 10,000. Each year, about 17,500 people are arrested in New York City for marijuana possession.

Neither the mayor’s office nor the NYPD agreed to comment on its policy regarding THC oil.

“The DA’s office has prosecuted at least 22 THC or cannabis oil cases since Sept. 1, according to public defenders in Brooklyn… In 13 of those cases, people were charged with possessing cannabis oil alone, without any other misdemeanor or felony charges,” The Appeal reports.

Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, says the DA is working to reduce marijuana convictions.

“New York law categorizes THC oil not as marijuana, but as a controlled substance… However, recognizing that THC is the active ingredient in marijuana, we believe that the two forms of marijuana should be treated similarly,” said Yaniv.

Meanwhile, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on the bigger picture. The state is currently exploring legalizing marijuana for adult use. New York already has a medical marijuana program. However, home cultivation, smokable medical marijuana, and edible products are not allowed under the program.

This month, during a recent appearance in Buffalo, Governor Cuomo said that marijuana legalization legislation is in the works.

“We now have a working group that is putting together a piece of legislation that would do it, because the devil is in the details: How do you do it, where do you do it, what are the ages, etc.? What is New Jersey doing? What has Massachusetts done? So that legislation is being crafted. I expect it to be introduced next year. The when and the how, we’re not clear,” Cuomo said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr