Pot might be decriminalized in New York, but area marijuana smokers should be aware that possession of weed vaporizer pens filled with concentrated THC can incur a misdemeanor charge. Zachary T. Ham of Saugerties, 24, was charged with seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance when he was found in possession of multiple pen cartridges in the process of a routine traffic stop on June 8; the same charge can be attained by possessing a hypodermic needle loaded with heroin.
According to police, officers established that Ham was “operating under the influence of drugs” upon pulling him over on Glasco Turnpike. He was also charged with driving with ability impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor, and the violation of unlawful possession of marijuana (the charge that would be elicited by the discovery of under 25 grams of old-fashioned marijuana plant matter).
“Marijuana is just a violation — once you concentrate it, the effects of the THC are much more potent, [so] it falls under the category of a controlled substance,” said Saugerties Police Chief Joe Sinagra of the distinction. “I think, prior to the vape pen, [arrests involving] the concentrated THC [weren’t] that prominent. Now, because vape pens are so accessible, we see a high number of high school kids getting these vape pens. We’re starting to have more encounters with individuals in possession of it. There’s a concerning increase in the number of individuals that are using vapes throughout New York State.”
After processing at police headquarters, Ham was released to a third party; he will appear in town court later this month to answer his charges.