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IS MARIJUANA LEGAL OR ILLEGAL IN NEW JERSEY?

MEDICAL = YES, WITH RESTRICTIONS.

RECREATIONAL = NOW, NO! BUT COMING SOON IN 2018, MAYBE.

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Marijuana advocates in Vancouver, Canada send a message resonating all the way to New Jersey.

Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010 – with restrictions.

Recreational marijuana is not (yet) legal in New Jersey. And offenders who possess or distribute marijuana are dealt with harshly. But that could all change when New Jersey undergoes a regime change from the Christie Dynasty to whatever is coming next.

It is important to know the differences and the laws, because the difference could lead to arrest and conviction for possession or distribution of marijuana – which could lead to years to decades of prison time, harsh fines and a permanent criminal record.

And if you’re in the slammer when the rules (possibly) change a couple of months from now, you’ll miss out on all the legal fun.

CHRIS CHRISTIE SAYS: WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL IT DOPE?

The strictness of New Jersey marijuana and other drug crimes laws has much to do with the zeitgeist of Governor Chris Christie, who was elected in 2010 and believes that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that has lead to the many other problems New Jersey has with drugs – from prescription drugs to meth to heroin.

With the January 2018 departure of Governor Chris Christie, marijuana is teetering on the brink of becoming fully, recreationally legal in New Jersey. But it’s not there yet and you don’t want to fall and get stuck in that deep crevasse between present illegality and future leniency.

Monmouth County marijuana possession and distribution lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa knows how to walk the fine line of legal and illegal marijuana possession and distribution in New Jersey. She understands the history, rationale and ebb and flow of drug cases and is ready to square off against aggressive prosecutors and hardened judges. Ms. Breslow-Testa can have cases diverted to Drug Court and Pre-Trial Intervention, and she knows how to look for mistakes in police procedure that could lead to lesser or dropped charges.

Call for a free consultation: (732) 784-2880

 

MARIJUANA IS A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED DANGEROUS SUBSTANCE

In New Jersey, Controlled Dangerous Substances are divided into Schedule I – V, based on their potential for abuse, and possible damage. Although the medical value of marijuana has been proven, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, which include hallucinogens and narcotics that are frequently abused and have no acceptable medical value for treatment in the United States. Schedule 1 offenses – possession to distribution – are the most serious. There are several dozen Schedule 1 CDS listed, but in general marijuana is right up there with acid, hashish, heroin, LSD, MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEDICAL CANNABIS

On January 18, 2010, outgoing New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed S. 119 – New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act – which permits the use of medical cannabis for citizens with conditions including Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, muscular dystrophy, severe muscle spasms, Lou Gehrig’s disease, seizure disorder, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and any terminal illness – where a doctor has determined a patient has less than a year to live.

S. 119 allows other illnesses to be listed, but prohibits patients from growing their own cannabis. They can buy cannabis products from “alternate treatment centers.” The first of six opened in Montclair, New Jersey in 2012 and by 2015 there were four more: in Egg Harbor Township, Woodbridge, Bellmawr, and Cranbury. As of March 2017, the sixth dispensary was still waiting for approval to open.

New Jersey’s medical cannabis laws are considered the strictest among the states allowing the use of medical marijuana. Seven years after the law went into effect, New Jersey had registered 11,659 qualified medical cannabis patients – most of them adults.

Governor Chris Christie opposes the medical marijuana laws as he believes,  correctly in some cases,  that cannabis is a “gateway drug” – and he has resisted efforts to have new illnesses added to the list. But in 2013 the parents of a two-year-old with Dravet’s Syndrome persuaded Christie to sign a bill allowing access to medical cannabis for sick children – aka Pot for Tots.

And in 2016, Christie added post traumatic stress disorder to the list of illnesses which can be treated by medical marijuana.

New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel voted to recommend adding migraines, Tourette syndrome, autism-related anxiety, Alzheimer’s-related anxiety and chronic pain related to arthritis, back and neck pain, sciatica, diabetes and other causes.

The law protects physicians, caregivers and patients, but under S. 119, it is a disorderly persons offense to forge a marijuana registry identification card and otherwise misrepresent it to a law enforcement official.

It is also illegal to possess medical marijuana in an amount that exceeds two ounces per month.

 

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA – ONE POSSIBLE FUTURE

The use of marijuana for other than strict medical reasons is still illegal in New Jersey, although there is a growing movement to legalize recreational marijuana as soon as Governor Chris Christie leaves office in January of 2018.

In May of 2017, New Jersey state senator Nicholas Scutari introduced legislation to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. The limits would be one ounce of “marijuana flower,” 16 ounces of cannabis-infused products – aka “edibles” – 72 ounces of “liquid marijuana tinctures, drinks and oils,” and seven grams of marijuana concentrate.

The law proposes a state sales tax of 7% in the first year and 10% the second year, rising %5 per year to a limit of 25%. New Jersey would not allow home cultivation of cannabis.

Projections by New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and New Jersey Policy Perspective states a federal study estimating 365,900 people in New Jersey age 21 and over illegally use marijuana on a monthly basis, consuming 2.53 million ounces a year.

It is not known what legalizing medical marijuana would do to the  price of an ounce. But at the going rate of $343 an ounce, legalized marijuana is projected to be worth $1.2 billion from New Jersey residents and visitors from surrounding states.

At the eventual tax rate of 25%, that would add $300 million a year to New Jersey state coffers.

While Governor Chris Christie opposes this law as “beyond stupidity,” all of the Democratic candidates for governor back the legalization of recreational marijuana – they believe the tax benefits and the easing of pressure on the courts system outweigh any negative effects of ingesting cannabis products.

There is belief and hope the laws will go into effect if a Democratic governor is elected.

 

SO WHAT IS LEGAL AND WHAT ISN’T?

New Jersey statutes N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 of the New Jersey Criminal Code address offenses for manufacturing, distributing, or possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. Marijuana offenses can be first, second, third or fourth degree, depending on the measured weight or number of plants associated with the offense.

 

SAMPLE PENALTIES FOR POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA

Weight matters with marijuana and these are some of the possible results of a conviction for possession – with no intent to distribute or sell:

  • The possession of marijuana in a quantity of 25 pounds or more; or 50 or more marijuana plants; or hashish in a quantity of 5 pounds or more – First Degree Crime: punishable by a sentence to serve between 10 and 20 years in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $300,000.
  • The possession of marijuana in a quantity of less than 1 ounce – Fourth Degree Crime: punishable by a sentence to serve up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

 

SAMPLE PENALTIES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OR POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE

The state of New Jersey does not like the uncontrolled selling of marijuana on the streets – and especially within range of schools, or to minors, or pregnant women.

Selling or distributing is a major step up in fines and penalties in the state of New Jersey. These penalties are defined in New Jersey statutes  2C:35-5 to  2C:43-6:

  • Sale or distribution of less than one ounce is a fourth degree crime punishable by a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
  • Sale or distribution of 25 pounds or more is a first degree crime punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $300,000. This is a mandatory minimum sentence, although there are limited exceptions to this law.
  • If you are convicted of selling any amount of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school property or school bus, that is a third degree crime with a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $150,000.
  • Selling marijuana to minors under the age of 18 or pregnant women is a felony which will result in a doubling of the prison term and fine.

 

MARIJUANA CULTIVATION: PENALTIES

Home cultivation of marijuana will not become legal if Senator Scutari’s recreational marijuana laws are passed. Currently the fines and penalties for the cultivation of marijuana are covered under New Jersey statutes 2C:35-5 to 2C: 43-6.

  • The cultivation of one ounce to five pounds – less than 10 plants – is a third degree crime punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
  • Cultivation of 25 pounds or more – 50 or more plants – is a first degree crime punishable by 10 – 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $300,000.

 

MARIJUANA PARAPHERNALIA: PENALTIES

Under New Jersey statutes 2C:36-2  to 2C:43-8 the penalties for possessing or selling marijuana paraphernalia include:

  • Possession or use of paraphernalia is a “Disorderly Persons Offense” punishable by a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000.
  • Sale of paraphernalia to minors is a crime in the 3rd degree punishable by a sentence of 3-5 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of $25,000.

 

THIS COULD ALL CHANGE AFTER JANUARY, 2018

If the Democrats take control of the New Jersey statehouse after the Christie Dynasty, there could be a dramatic shift in the attitude toward recreational marijuana in New Jersey.

Three hundred million dollars in additional tax dollars is enticing in a cash-strapped world so the citizens of New Jersey are waiting to see what will happen.

But as for now, the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is still illegal to anyone without a legitimate medical reason. If you are arrested for possession or distribution of marijuana – from one ounce to over 25 pounds – the first person you should talk to is Monmouth County marijuana possession and distribution attorney Tara Breslow-Testa.

Call for a free consultation: (732) 784-2880