While societal attitudes toward the possession and use of marijuana have become increasingly progressive over the last decade, neither the federal government nor various state governments have followed suit. Indeed, as we discussed last week, both the federal government and the state of New Jersey continue to classify marijuana as a schedule I drug, meaning it has no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse.
All this begs the question then as to what the average person arrested for marijuana possession — from the college student with a bag in his pocket to the business executive with a bag in her glove compartment — can expect under state law.
How does New Jersey treat marijuana possession?
Under state law, it is illegal to knowingly or purposely possess marijuana for personal use. As to the class of charge a person faces for committing this offense, it depends upon the amount found in their possession at the time of arrest.
How then does amount factor into marijuana possession charges?
If a person is found to be in possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana, they will be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
If a person is found to be in possession of 50-plus grams of marijuana, they will be charged with a fourth degree crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to 18 months in prison.
What about subsequent offenses?
A conviction for a second or subsequent marijuana possession offense can be punished by a doubling of the penalties outlined above.
What if the offense occurs in a public park, school zone or public housing?
In the event a person was found to be in possession of marijuana in a public park, school zone or public housing area, they will be subject to the penalties outlined above, as well as 100 hours of community service.
What about possession of medical marijuana?
The criminal penalties that normally attach to marijuana possession are inapplicable so far as possession of medical marijuana is concerned. However, the person in possession must be in compliance with all applicable program requirements, including being diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition and securing a registry identification card. Failure to do this will result in charges.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have been charged with any sort of drug crime, as the stakes are simply too high.