Following New Jersey voters’ approval of a ballot referendum for the legalized manufacture, sale, possession, and use of recreational marijuana, state legislators have worked to craft and pass legislation and regulations to bring the voters’ decision into effect. In the meantime, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a notice directing state prosecutors to suspend activity on all cases involving charges of possession of personal use amounts of marijuana.
AG Issues Guidance Pausing Prosecution for Low-Level Marijuana Crimes
Specifically, Attorney General Grewal’s guidance states that “All New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors are instructed to seek an adjournment, until at least Jan. 25, 2021” of low-level marijuana possession offenses. In cases where defendants are charged with other, more serious crimes in addition to simple possession of marijuana, the directive instructs prosecutors to “use their discretion” in deciding whether to postpone the case or dismiss it entirely. Attorney General Grewal noted the motivation for the directive, stating that “fairness and justice require that we, as prosecutors, not move forward with charges that the Legislature may foreclose in the near future.”
The directive does not suspend prosecution of charges of driving under the influence of marijuana. Nor does the directive instruct New Jersey law enforcement officers to suspend arrests for any marijuana-related offenses. According to statistics provided by the ACLU, despite the passage of the legalization referendum in November law enforcement officers across New Jersey continue to arrest an average of approximately 100 people a day on low-level marijuana possession charges.
How the New Directive Is Affected by the Recent Referendum
The referendum passed by voters during the November 2020 general election calls for legalization of recreational marijuana to go into effect on January 1, 2021, although legislative watchers expect that it will take about a year for the Assembly and Senate to pass legislation establishing a regulatory scheme for the production and sale of recreational marijuana. Members of the Assembly are inclined to set a legislative cap on the number of recreational marijuana retailers, while Senators are in favor of allowing as many retailers as the market will bear.
Legislature Trying to Decriminalize Minor Marijuana Offenses Pending Legalization
A bill to decriminalize possession of personal use amounts of marijuana stalled in the New Jersey Assembly following a dispute over an amendment added in the Senate that would decrease criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce of psychedelic mushrooms.
Can You Still Be Arrested for Marijuana Possession?
Until legalization of the possession of recreational marijuana goes into effect under the terms of the referendum, law enforcement can still arrest and charge you with possession of personal use amounts of marijuana. However, even if you are charged, the Attorney General’s directive will likely mean that your case will not move forward. If you are not charged with any other, more serious crimes, it may even be possible to negotiate with the prosecutor for a dismissal of your charges in light of the impending legalization of recreational marijuana following the expressed policy of the people of New Jersey in approving the legalization referendum.
Contact an Experienced Newark Drug Defense Attorney About Your Marijuana Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey
Have you been charged with a drug related offense in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension! That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer about your case. The lawyers at Hercules Law Group, PLLC represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Haddonfield, Toms River, New Brunswick, Princeton, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 372-5922 or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 76 E Euclid Ave Suite 101, Haddonfield, NJ 08033, as well as offices located in Hamilton Township, Vineland, Freehold, Toms River, Neptune City, New Brunswick, Bridgewater, Princeton, Hoboken, Morristown, Jersey City, Flemington, Montclair, Hackensack, and New York, NY.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.