New Developments in New Jersey’s Treatment of Marijuana Charges

Camden NJ Marijuana Law AttorneyDiscussions about the potential decriminalization of marijuana in New Jersey have been occurring since July, when New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced a statewide adjournment of all municipal marijuana charges, pending further guidance to prosecutors in the state. After several weeks of waiting, the Attorney General’s guidance has finally been issued.

Emphasizing that prosecutors do not have discretion to unilaterally implement a policy of not prosecuting any municipal marijuana cases, Attorney General Grewal encouraged prosecutors to exercise discretion when they find there is insufficient evidence to prosecute a marijuana charge or when they find the consequences would be too severe.

In his guidance, Grewal made it clear that prosecutors may not effectively decriminalize the use of marijuana in small amounts by refusing to prosecute any cases before the legislator has acted to decriminalize its use.

Whether the New Jersey legislator will actually change the law and legalize the recreational use of marijuana remains to be seen. Grewal explained that he would not suspend all marijuana cases until the legislator acts on this issue, emphasizing the importance of the rule of law, because no deadline for taking action has been set by the legislator.

How will prosecutors decide whether to dismiss a marijuana possession charge?

The Attorney General’s guidance to prosecutors on how to handle municipal charges involving marijuana in New Jersey provided several factors to should consider when evaluating a case including the defendant’s age, prior criminal history, circumstances surrounding the arrest, impact on employment opportunities, ability to join the military or obtain a professional license, potential impact on their immigration status and educational opportunities, negative impact on eligibility for housing subsidies or other financial assistance, and negative impact on family. While this guidance may be helpful, it will ultimately be up to the municipal prosecutor to decide how they weigh and apply these factors when choosing to pursue or dismiss a marijuana possession case.

What is the possible sentence for marijuana possession in New Jersey?

The guidance outlined above applies only to charges for possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana. If you are charged with this offense, the prosecutor will review your case and consider the factors outlined above. If they decide to pursue the charges against you and you are convicted of possessing under 50 grams of pot, a disorderly persons offense, you will face up to 6 months in prison and fines of up to $1,000.

Charges for possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana are not subject to the newly issued guidance or factors to be considered when exercising prosecutorial discretion on marijuana cases in municipal court. If you are convicted of possessing more than 50 grams of marijuana, you may be convicted of a fourth degree indictable offense, carrying potential penalties of up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Can I have a marijuana conviction removed from my record?

If you have been convicted of possession of marijuana in New Jersey, you must wait 5 years before you can apply for an expungement. However, if you participated in a diversionary program like Pre-trial Intervention or conditional discharge, you only need to wait 6 months to apply once your charges have been dismissed.

Marijuana Attorney in Camden, NJ

If you have recently been charged with possession of marijuana in New Jersey, experienced marijuana defense lawyer Leonard D. Biddison has what it takes to present your best defense. For over 25 years, Mr. Biddison has been successfully defending clients charged with marijuana offenses in Camden, Mount Holly, Evesham Township, Bordentown, Cherry Hill, and throughout Burlington and Camden County. Contact our office in Camden County today at 856-245-5240 for a free consultation about your marijuana case.

The Current Status of Marijuana Law in New Jersey

Marijuana Weed & Drug Lawyers Bordentown NJIn recent years, several states have legalized marijuana and started to develop a lucrative cannabis industry. A move by New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal last week to direct an adjournment of all marijuana cases in municipal courts until September, while the Attorney General’s office works to develop new guidance for prosecutors on these cases, has caused many to wonder if New Jersey will soon be following suit after nine other states have legalized the previously criminalized controlled substance.

However, it is important to remember that changes in enforcement policies and enforcement priorities are not changes in New Jersey marijuana law. In order for New Jersey laws on marijuana possession and the penalties for these charges to change, the New Jersey legislature must pass a new law.

So, the bottom line is: It is illegal to possess any amount of marijuana in New Jersey. You can still be arrested for possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana and charged with a disorderly persons offense, or charged with a fourth degree indictable offense if you have more than 50 grams of marijuana in your possession.

What does this mean for marijuana possession cases currently before NJ municipal courts?

Well, that answer is currently unclear. Essentially, if your marijuana possession case is pending before a municipal court right now, it will be put on hold until September. This means that you will not be ordered to come to court to deal with your case before then. After the Attorney General’s office issues its pending guidance to prosecutors on these cases, your case will then be handled according to that new guidance. This could mean that prosecutors are encouraged to exercise broader discretion in dismissing low-level marijuana charges, but the guidance could also result in little change to how these cases are handled in most municipalities around New Jersey. However, recent statements made by local and state officials around New Jersey, including Governor Phil Murphy, suggest changing attitudes about criminal charges for marijuana possession, favoring a trend towards decriminalization.

Can I still go to jail for possessing marijuana in New Jersey?

Yes. No matter how little marijuana you have in your possession, you can still face jail time if convicted. The penalties for possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana include up to six months in jail with fines of up to $1,000. If you are convicted of possessing more than that, you could be sentenced to 18 months in jail with fines of up to $10,000. In addition to these penalties, marijuana possession charges entail a 6-month driver’s license suspension and a criminal record if convicted.

What about a past marijuana conviction?

Currently, there has been no change in the law that would retroactively impact existing convictions for marijuana possession in New Jersey. However, if you have been convicted of a marijuana offense in New Jersey, you may be able to get your conviction expunged in accordance with the existing law.

To get a previous marijuana-related conviction expunged in New Jersey, you must wait 5 years until you can expunge the conviction record, however, if you completed conditional discharge, you can expunge the arrest and the charges 6 months after successful completion. There are additional restrictions including that you cannot expunge a disorderly persons offense (possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana) if you have more than three convictions on your record.

Bordentown Drug Defense Attorneys

If you have been recently charged with marijuana possession or another drug offense in New Jersey, are interested in having a previous conviction or arrest record expunged, or are wondering how new policy changes on marijuana offenses in New Jersey might impact your rights or pending case, contact the Law Offices of Leonard D. Biddison today. Mr. Biddison and his team serve clients in Bordentown, Mount Holly, Cinnaminson, Moorestown, Evesham Township, Burlington City, and throughout South Jersey. Call 856-245-5240 or contact us online for a free consultation.


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