In November of 2020, New Jersey residents voted to legalize adult (those 21 years of age and older) recreational marijuana use. Three months later, in February of 2021, Governor Phil Murphy approved three bills reflecting the people's wishes. One of the new laws decriminalizes possession of small amounts of weed, and the other legalizes its consumption.
Although enacting these laws reflects the changing perceptions on marijuana use, there are various nuances concerning what can and can't be done now that pot is essentially legal.
Below are a few things you should know about New Jersey's new marijuana laws:
Not All Pot Possession Has Been Decriminalized
While it's true that people will not face criminal charges for having marijuana, the law doesn't apply to larger amounts. Bill A1987 decriminalized possession of up to 6 ounces, which means a person will not be criminally penalized for having that much (or less).
However, under N.J.S. 2C:35-10, possession of more than 6 ounces is a crime of the fourth degree. A conviction can result in up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
People Can't Grow Their Own Weed
New Jersey's marijuana laws concern regulated possession and consumption. This means that a person must get their weed from a state-authorized facility. Growing the substance is still considered a crime.
According to N.J.S. 2C:35-5, manufacturing 5 pounds or more but less than 8 pounds of marijuana or 10 or more but less than 50 plants is a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Cultivating 25 pounds or more or more than 50 plants is a crime of the first degree. A court can impose a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $300,000.
Even manufacturing smaller amounts can be a crime. The first time someone grows one ounce or less of marijuana, they will receive a written warning. Second and subsequent violations are charged as crimes of the fourth degree and punishable by incarceration and/or fines.
Marijuana Can't Legally Be Purchased Yet
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), the agency that oversees the medical marijuana program, is tasked with developing rules and regulations for legal marijuana sales. Once the guidelines are established, the CRC will begin taking applications for recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Police Can't Do a Stop and Search Based on Marijuana Smell
Under the new laws, police cannot use the smell of pot as a justification for searching a person, their vehicle, or their residence. If they do cite the scent of the substance as reasonable suspicion, the search may be deemed unlawful.
Marijuana-Related Drug Paraphernalia Is Legal
If a person has an instrument or material to ingest, inhale, or consume marijuana in any way, they are no longer committing a crime. Possession of pot paraphernalia is now legal. However, the law still prohibits possessing such instruments for using, making, or packaging other controlled dangerous substance.
New laws decriminalizing or legalizing something that has, for a long time, been unlawful brings with them a bevy of questions and concerns. Because there are many grey areas in the statute, it's possible a person may be criminally charged for conduct they didn't believe was an offense.
At Roberts & Teeter, LLC, we can help you understand New Jersey's marijuana laws and represent you if you've been charged with a possession or manufacturing crime.
Speak with a member of our team by calling (732) 607-5553 or contacting us online today.