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What are the penalties for marijuana possession in New Jersey?

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

What are the penalties for marijuana possession in New Jersey?

New Jersey has come a long way in relaxing its marijuana laws over the past few years. But even with recent reforms, you can still face criminal charges and stiff penalties for possessing pot in the Garden State. Let’s break down exactly what’s legal, what’s not, and what kind of trouble you might find yourself in if caught with weed.

Decriminalization

In 2020, New Jersey decriminalized possession of up to six ounces of marijuana. This means that getting busted with a small amount of pot is no longer a criminal offense. Instead, it’s a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $50. The state also decriminalized being under the influence of marijuana.

So if you’re 21 or older and have six ounces or less for personal use, you’re in the clear legally. But there are still risks if cops find you with weed in your car or in public. You can get written up and fined for the civil offense. And police might still hassle you or try to search your vehicle, even though they can’t criminally charge you for the pot itself. So it’s still smart to be discreet!

Legalization

In 2021, New Jersey went a step further by fully legalizing marijuana possession and use for adults 21 and over. The state also set up a framework for regulating and taxing cannabis production and sales. However, recreational dispensaries have been slow to open as regulations are hammered out.

So while it’s now legal under state law to possess marijuana, there’s still no legal way to purchase it without a medical card. And you still can’t smoke weed in public or in your car. You also can’t cross state lines with cannabis or bring it onto federal property like national parks. Basically, legalization just means you can legally have it at home if you’re over 21. But it’s still a legal gray area how you obtain it.

Medical marijuana

New Jersey has allowed medical marijuana since 2010. Patients with a host of qualifying conditions can obtain a medical card to purchase and consume cannabis. The list of approved conditions is long — it includes anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, opioid use disorder, and many more. So it’s relatively easy to qualify if you have a sympathetic doctor.

Medical patients can possess up to three ounces per month. They’re also allowed to grow up to six plants at home or designate a caregiver to grow for them. Patients caught with more than their monthly limit could face charges for possession with intent to distribute. But their medical status would likely help avoid harsh penalties.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
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2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
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2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
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2024-03-15
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2024-03-12
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2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Possession limits and penalties

Here’s a quick rundown of the possession limits and penalties for marijuana in New Jersey:

  • 6 oz or less for personal use – civil violation, up to $50 fine (age 21+)
  • 6 oz to 1 pound – disorderly persons offense, up to 6 months jail and $1,000 fine
  • 1 to 5 pounds – 4th degree crime, up to 18 months jail and $10,000 fine
  • 5 to 25 pounds – 3rd degree crime, 3-5 years prison and $25,000 fine
  • 25+ pounds – 2nd degree crime, 5-10 years prison and $150,000 fine

As you can see, the penalties get pretty steep if you’re busted with more than just a small user amount. Even a pound of pot could mean jail time. And the fines ramp up quickly into the tens of thousands of dollars. Not to mention you’ll end up with a criminal record.

Distribution charges

Selling marijuana is still illegal outside the state’s medical system. Anyone caught distributing pot faces harsh criminal charges. This includes:

  • Giving away “gifts” with purchase of other items
  • Delivering to friends or family
  • Growing and selling to dispensaries

Distribution charges fall under the same weight-based penalty structure as possession. But sentences are harsher overall, especially for larger amounts:

  • 1 oz to 5 lbs – 3rd degree crime, 3-5 years prison
  • 5 to 25 lbs – 2nd degree crime, 5-10 years prison
  • 25+ lbs – 1st degree crime, 10-20 years prison

These penalties apply even if no money is exchanged. So don’t assume you can get away with “gifting” marijuana. Any transfer outside the medical system is considered distribution.

Paraphernalia possession

Possessing marijuana paraphernalia like pipes and bongs is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Selling paraphernalia is a more serious crime punishable by up to 18 months jail and a $10,000 fine. Many head shops in the state sell pipes and bongs labeled “for tobacco use only” to avoid prosecution.

Marijuana in vehicles

There are additional penalties for marijuana in motor vehicles under N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1. Any amount of marijuana found in a vehicle can result in a $50-$100 fine and mandatory driver’s license suspension of 6 months to 2 years. This is true even if you’re a registered medical marijuana patient. It’s still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana as well.

Drug-free school zones

All the above marijuana charges are enhanced if you’re caught within 1,000 feet of any school, park, playground, public housing, or school bus stop. Fines and jail terms double in drug-free school zones, and some charges are automatically elevated by one degree. So a disorderly persons offense would become a 4th degree crime, for example.

Probation and public housing

Any marijuana conviction can get you kicked out of public housing. Probation terms may also include mandatory drug counseling, community service, or suspension of your driver’s license. And your name and mugshot may be published by police in a local newspaper or online arrest log.

Expungement and sealing of records

The good news is prior marijuana possession convictions can now be expunged in New Jersey. The state’s expungement laws changed in 2019 to allow certain past drug offenses to be cleared from your criminal record. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you file a petition if you’re eligible.

You may also be able to get an arrest sealed if charges were dismissed or downgraded to a civil offense. Sealing prevents your arrest information from showing up on most background checks. Expungement actually deletes the arrest and conviction data from your record.

Finding a top marijuana defense attorney

As you can see, marijuana laws are complex in New Jersey, and penalties are still harsh for many offenses. If you’ve been busted with pot, don’t take chances. Consult with an experienced New Jersey marijuana defense lawyer who can protect your rights. A knowledgeable attorney will know the ins-and-outs of current laws and exactly how to build the strongest defense to avoid a conviction.

With so much on the line, it’s critical to have expert legal representation on your side. Don’t leave your fate to chance. The costs of a conviction clearly outweigh attorney fees to have your case dismissed or charges reduced. So be smart and make the minor investment upfront to ensure the best possible outcome. You’ll be thankful you did.

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