New York continues to provide mixed signals on whether it is ratcheting down the war against drugs or escalating it. It seems excessive, in light of shifting public policy, for police to arrest people on drug charges, including a felony, for growing some backyard variety of marijuana plants. That is exactly what New York state troopers did recently when they arrested at least two residents of the town of Dover in separate incidents for allegedly growing marijuana.
A 55-year-old man was arrested earlier last week and charged with the illegal growing of cannabis and criminal possession of marijuana. The charges allege that the man had more than a dozen plants on his property. Police allegedly saw the plants while investigating an unrelated matter at a neighbor's house.
In the second incident, the State Police arrested a 32-year-old man for growing marijuana illegally, which is a misdemeanor, and for second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a felony. The trooper allegedly was driving on a routine patrol when he spotted dozens of plants. Both men were apparently taken into custody and then released pending their preliminary hearings.
Defense counsel may find that there is no good defense to the charges in either case. However, it should at least be investigated whether any of the plants were wild or grown without any culturing provided by the accused persons. In New York state, marijuana is known to propagate itself and grow spontaneously without discretion as to location.
Barring that defense, the focus of counsel must be on mitigating the seriousness of the drug charges under New York jurisprudence in light of current shifting public policy. Granted that is not a legally binding argument, but it may hit a responsive chord with an informed prosecuting attorney. Counsel should also try to steer these cases in an alternate disposition that can avoid incarceration and the permanent scarring of a felony conviction.
Source: newstimes.com, "Trooper sees pot plants, makes arrest", Dirk Perrefort, Sept. 29, 2016