New York Penal Law 179.15: Criminal retention medical marijuana

New York Penal Law 179.15: Criminal retention medical marijuana

Although marijuana remains generally illegal in the State of New York, there are unique instances where a person can possess marijuana legally for medical purposes. Under New York’s Compassionate Care Act, a person can possess and use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation for specific medical conditions. These conditions are very specific, and if they’re not followed, the person who violates the requirement of the Compassionate Care Act can still find themselves facing criminal charges.

Medical marijuana users

In order to lawfully use marijuana in New York, you must have a certification from your doctor that it’s medically beneficial for you to use marijuana. You must have a medical condition that qualifies you to use the substance. The same doctor that certifies you for medical marijuana use must care for the underlying medical condition. You may have up to a thirty-day supply of medical marijuana at any given time.

Care providers

Under the Act, a medical marijuana patient can designate another person to grow medical marijuana for their use. In fact, they can choose up to two people to be their care providers. If the patient is under twenty-one years of age, they must use a parent or legal guardian for their care provider unless they are unavailable.

A person who grows medical marijuana for others may not grow for more than five patients at once. A provider must register with the state before they begin to provide marijuana for others. Neither a care provider nor a patient may have more than a thirty-day supply of marijuana at any given time. When a caregiver has more than the thirty-day supply that they’re allowed for each patient, they can run afoul of New York penal law 179.15. That makes it a crime to keep more than the allowed amount of medical marijuana.

Criminal retention of marijuana

In addition to the thirty-day supply limitation, the marijuana the caregiver and the user possess must be in the dose and form that the patient’s doctor recommends. If either person has more than the thirty-day supply, they may find themselves charged with violating New York penal law 179.15. It prohibits the criminal retention of medical marijuana.


Criminal retention of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor. That means that you can receive up to one year in jail if you’re convicted. You might also have to pay a fine and spend up to three years on probation.

An example

Betty is a medical marijuana care provider for three patients. Based on the allowed doses, she’s allowed to possess up to five pounds of marijuana at any time. Betty grows fifteen pounds of marijuana. She keeps all of the marijuana, and she plans to sell the extra to individuals who are not her registered patients.

In this case, Betsy is guilty of criminal retention of marijuana. If Betsy sells the marijuana, she might also find herself facing charges of unlawful sale of marijuana. Possession of marijuana and criminal diversion of marijuana are other related charges that might apply in certain marijuana cases.


If you’re facing a charge of criminal retention of medical marijuana, it’s important to meet with a skilled NYC criminal lawyer to explore available defenses. Common defenses for criminal retention of medical marijuana relate to the amount of marijuana that the person has in their possession. It’s up to the state to prove that you have more marijuana than you’re allowed to have. Defenses can get very technical as to the amount that you possess and how law enforcement measures that amount.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Request Free Consultation

Please fill out the form below to receive a free consultation, we will respond to your inquiry within 24-hours guaranteed.