Over the past few years, the state legislature has continued to progress toward the legalization of marijuana. Meanwhile, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting data indicates that New Jersey has the second highest arrest rate for marijuana-related offenses. In 2016, over 35,000 people were arrested for either possession or distribution.
Legal Representation for Marijuana-Related Offenses
Having an experienced defense lawyer in the New Jersey legal system is critical when facing allegations involving cannabis. The Lento Law Firm is well-versed in aggressively defending charges including possession of marijuana, trafficking of marijuana, and paraphernalia charges. We ensure our clients have their rights protected in all types of drug-related offenses.
Marijuana-Related Arrests in New Jersey (2016)
Arrest Rate (Per 100,000 People)
Overview of New Jersey Marijuana Laws
In 2018, the state's medical marijuana program saw an increase in the number of patients and new dispensary locations. Lawmakers appeared poised to legalize marijuana for recreational usage. Governor Phil Murphy, who assumed office in January 2018, had affirmed his support for establishing a state-regulated market. Senator Nicholas Scutari presented a bill that laid the framework for legalization; however, it became overshadowed by significant budgetary concerns in June.
There have been opposing views on how this regulated market would operate. By November, the bill sponsored by Scutari had been amended several times. Key issues regarding how the market will be taxed appear to be the primary obstacle.
Medical Marijuana in New Jersey
The state's medicinal marijuana program is continuing to evolve. Laws were enacted allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes; however, it is still prohibited by federal laws. Several local municipalities have expressed their opposition to having a dispensary in their jurisdiction. Other localities have welcomed these facilities as a source of much-needed revenue.
Recent Changes to Medicinal Laws
There has been continued discussion regarding what medical conditions qualify as “debilitating” conditions. Epilepsy and glaucoma may be classified as debilitating once conventional methods of treatment have proven unsuccessful. The New Jersey Department of Health has determined that ingestion of medicinal marijuana is less harmful than smoking. Products are now able to be prescribed and dispensed in lozenge form and in a topical application.
- Possessing 25 pounds or more of marijuana or five pounds of hashish or more is deemed as a first-degree crime
- According to 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $300,000 may be potentially imposed
- Possessing between five and 25 pounds of marijuana or one pound of hashish is an offense of the second-degree
- Possession of between one pound and five pounds or between five grams and one pound of hashish is a third-degree offense
- Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish is a fourth-degree offense
- Weight calculations may include any “adulterants” of substances or those used to dilute a substance
Drug Paraphernalia Possession
New Jersey statute broadly defines the term drug paraphernalia. It includes “equipment, products, and materials” intended for use in planting, harvesting, manufacturing, or preparing substances that are considered as controlled or dangerous. Members of law enforcement may look for evidence of residue that suggests drug usage. Any paperwork or materials found that describe or depict an object as being intended for drug use are also considered to be strong indicators.
Drug paraphernalia charges are considered as disorderly person offenses, which are minor by comparison. These offenses carry a maximum of six months in jail, up to 180 days of community service, and a $1,000 fine. Drug paraphernalia charges also can result in a driver's license suspension.
Possible Defenses for Marijuana-Related Offenses
In defending a marijuana possession case it may be proven that your rights were violated, which may lead to a reduced charge or dismissal. It is also possible that your identity was mistaken. Sometimes the arresting agency is determined to have obtained evidence against you in a manner that was not legal. A defense that asserts you were subjected to entrapment is rare but possible also. An experienced attorney will consider potential defenses as part of an overall defense strategy.
Future Outlook Regarding Marijuana Laws in New Jersey
The legislative negotiations involving the legalization of marijuana are contentious partially because several forces are competing for control of an extremely valuable market. Governor Murphy believes the market should be state-operated. Committees within the Senate and Assembly proposed the formation of a Cannabis Regulatory Committee that would manage both the recreational and medicinal markets.
What if lawmakers continue to be unable to reach a legislative solution? One potential alternative would involve a ballot initiative for the voters. In many states, citizens are able to build support for a proposed measure by acquiring a specific number of signatures. In New Jersey, voters would be ruling on a constitutional amendment. This path to implementation requires a 60% “supermajority” of legislative support.
Period of Decriminalization
Gurbir Grewal, the New Jersey Attorney General, lifted a temporary halt to criminal actions involving marijuana in 2018. He had previously thought the legislature was nearing a decision to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. He has since suggested that municipal courts may want to avoid imposing suspensions of driver's licenses and jail time for minor offenses.
Importance of Retaining Experienced Defense Counsel for Marijuana Offenses
Those charged with marijuana-related offenses should promptly seek legal representation. A host of penalties may be imposed on those who are convicted including jail time, fines, periods of probation, and more. Another critical concern is that you face the prospect of having a criminal record. Having a drug-related conviction on your record may create long-term problems for you. When applying for employment opportunities or seeking to lease an apartment this offense may prevent you from passing background screening requirements.
Defense Attorney for Cannabis Offenses in New Jersey
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been successfully defending clients in New Jersey for years. Much of this success is attributed to a commitment to protecting the rights of the accused and the development of customized defense strategies. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.