I have been asked more than a few times recently: is marijuana now legal in New Jersey? In my opinion, the confusion about the legality of marijuana in New Jersey can be attributed to several factors. First, the move toward decriminalization and the legalizing of recreational marijuana in other states has resulted in people in New Jersey thinking that if it’s okay there, it must be okay here, too.
Second, the election of Governor Phil Murphy, who is a vocal supporter of legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana (even though within his own party he does not currently have a lot of support from lawmakers), has some New Jerseyans thinking they can light up a spliff without fear.
Finally, many have heard that our state’s Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, recently directed municipal prosecutors to temporarily put a hold on prosecuting simple possession of marijuana cases while a working group studied the issue of prosecutorial discretion in those cases. Add to these reasons for the public confusion the fact that several months ago, New Jersey expanded its medical marijuana program to include its approval for the treatment of anxiety, chronic pain, migraines, and other common medical issues.
So where does that leave us?
The possession and use of marijuana are currently still illegal in the state of New Jersey if you don’t have a medical marijuana card. However, it appears that a move toward decriminalization is possible, as the Attorney General’s directive gives prosecutors more discretion as to dismissal or amending the charge of simple possession of a small amount of marijuana (under 50g). Prior to this directive, prosecutors in the municipal courts were not permitted to dismiss or amend unless an air-tight legal reason, or defense, allowed for it. Prosecutors now should first look to the sufficiency of the evidence in making the determination as to how to resolve a case, but they may also consider “collateral consequences” and other circumstances, including factors such as the age of the defendant and any adverse impacts a conviction might have on employment, housing or immigration status. This will help defense counsel in effecting resolutions to cases that our clients can live with and might even help prevent unnecessary trials, which can be costly to a client.
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, don’t hesitate to contact the lawyers at Martone Law Group for a consultation to find out how to protect your rights. We strive to get the best possible outcome for our clients, and we pride ourselves in the professionalism and quality of our legal services.