In February of 2021, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed the recreational use of marijuana into law, voted 2 to 1 by the citizens. From there, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission was appointed. While the new laws take effect immediately, the commission still needs to iron out the details on licensing and retail sales. It will likely take them until around August of 2021 to have those standards locked and ready to go.
Let’s take a look at these new laws and how they work, at least until licensing is determined.
What Is Now Legal
Private citizens may be in possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, and one ounce of hashish. Marijuana is the leafy plant, and hashish is a concentrated form of cannabis with high levels of THC. These large amounts are a remarkable freedom to New Jersey residents compared to some other states. Even California allows only a one ounce/eight gram amount, respectively.
It is now legal to be under the influence of cannabis. People may have paraphernalia without consequences, and they may transport cannabis in their vehicles. We have no word yet about having an “open container” of marijuana in the car, which is still illegal in some states.
What Is Illegal
Remember that DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” It is not exclusive to intoxication by alcohol. Just as alcohol is legal, marijuana is now legal, and you shouldn’t be driving under the influence of either. We don’t have specifics yet for penalties regarding amounts of THC in the system, but rest assured, if you are caught driving while very high, the penalties could be as severe as they would be for having a high blood alcohol level.
Cannabis can be bought and consumed only by those who are 21 and over, just like booze. However, it looks like Jersey is going to be far more lenient on minors caught with weed. For a first offense, minors will simply be given a written warning, and the police have been instructed to keep the matter private. They will not notify the minor’s parents. A second offense comes with another written warning and information on drug treatment. Again, there will be no notification to guardians or parents. By the third offense, yet another written notice will be given, and the youth will be referred to a treatment facility. Only then are the parents and guardians informed. So far, we see no plans on how to address offenses of four or more.
Unlike recreational marijuana laws in other states, New Jersey residents are not allowed to grow their own stash. This may be why citizens are allowed to have so much at once. The state wants to tightly regulate the product, so they’re going to be limiting growth to licensed vendors.
New Jersey doesn’t have misdemeanors or felonies like most states. They simply have crimes classified by degree. The highest level of crime is first-degree crime, and the lowest level is a “disorderly persons offense,” which is actually the fifth category. Private citizens in possession of more than the allowed six ounces weed/one ounce hash can be charged with a fourth-degree crime. This is punishable by up to 18 months (1½ years) in prison.
Penalties start to get really steep when marijuana is distributed without a license.
- 25 pounds of weed or more/5 pounds of hashish or more = first-degree crime, punishable by 10 – 20 years in prison
- 5 – 24 pounds of weed/1 – 4 pounds of hashish = second-degree crime, punishable by 5 – 10 years in prison
- 1 – 4 pounds of weed/5 grams to just under 1 pound of hashish = third-degree crime, punishable by 1 – 5 years in prison
- 1 ounce of weed or less = a written warning for the first offense; second offense = fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 6 months in prison
People Currently Charged with Cannabis Crimes
One of the most exciting developments is that people charged with marijuana crimes are being retroactively released. This includes people serving time, waiting on sentencing, or awaiting trial. The Administrative Office of the Courts has been tasked with this job. They are now in the process of eliminating all these charges and freeing the incarcerated.
These new laws are still quite young, so it’s possible to be wrongfully charged while everyone catches up. If you are incorrectly charged with a marijuana offense, or you are awaiting release from an old marijuana charge, talk to us today. We have been defending the accused for years, and we want to keep the authorities honest within the changing landscape. Set up a free consultation online, or call us at (973) 832-0841.