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New Jersey 2021 Weed Law Changes & What They Mean

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Former State Prosecutor

Former Atlantic County Prosecutor

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Experienced for over 30 years

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New Jersey followed the lead of several states by decriminalizing adult-use marijuana recently. Governor Murphy signed the bills into law on February 22, 2021. These new laws reform New Jersey’s previous prohibitions on marijuana and hashish possession and use.

The New Jersey weed laws of 2021 do not decriminalize marijuana possession, use, and distribution completely. You still face legal consequences for marijuana offenses that include jail and payment of fines. Consequently, you should seek help from a highly experienced New Jersey marijuana lawyer if you have drug-related criminal charges. Your future depends on it.

How Do the New Jersey Weed Legalization Laws Work?

Under the new laws, the state of New Jersey now regulates cannabis use instead of completely outlawing it. The state agency known as the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) received authorization from the legislature and governor to adopt rules and monitor cannabis marketplace safety.

There is no legal marketplace in New Jersey yet for the recreational use of marijuana. Right now, no marijuana dispensaries are operating in New Jersey. That means you can possess marijuana, but you must have a medical marijuana card or buy it on the black market.

The New Jersey marijuana laws allowed the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes beginning in 2019. However, the New Jersey weed laws of 2021 do not automatically create recreational marijuana dispensaries. Instead, the legislation allowed cities and towns to either opt in or out of having a dispensary in their jurisdiction. Then the CDC can begin its rule-making process.

The legislation expanded the role of medical marijuana facilities to curb black-market marijuana sales. Consequently, the law allows medical marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis to adults. However, the CRC indicated that medical dispensaries that do not meet the demands of prescription-holding patients cannot sell cannabis to adults.

What Does Decriminalization Mean Under the New Jersey Weed Laws of 2021?

There are significant changes to the criminal law because of New Jersey legalizing weed. First, possession of fewer than six ounces of marijuana or 17 grams of hashish by an adult is no longer a crime in New Jersey. (New Jersey law considers 21 to be an adult for recreational marijuana use.) Notwithstanding, New Jersey law does not allow you to grow marijuana in your home.

Anyone caught with more than the decriminalized amount will face prosecution. You should be aware that possessing more than six ounces of marijuana carries a potential 18-month jail sentence and a $25,000 fine. However, police no longer have arrest powers for this criminal offense. Instead, the police must issue a complaint and summons to the offender. Police cannot detain, arrest, or take anyone into custody any longer for simple possession of marijuana.

The NJ marijuana legalization act provides no punishment the first time you are caught selling or distributing less than one ounce of weed. The police can only give you a written warning for your first offense. Subsequent offenses are crimes that carry a punishment of 18 months in prison and a $25,000 fine as fourth-degree offenses.

The sale or distribution of greater than one ounce up to five pounds is a third-degree crime. The sentence for this offense is three to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

How Do the Amended New Jersey Marijuana Laws Affect the Police?

The police must use alternative methods of investigating after the enactment of the updated laws. Law enforcement officers still should investigate a person for impaired driving or driving under the influence. However, the odor of either raw or freshly burned marijuana is no longer justification for searching a car. Instead, the officer can use evidence of intoxication only to justify a search of the vehicle.

The same is true for police encountering pedestrians. The odor of burned or raw marijuana emitting from a person does not justify an intrusion. Therefore, the police cannot stop anyone from the smell of weed. This is a departure from previous policing practices.

No person under 21 can lawfully possess marijuana. Notwithstanding, the police no longer have any authority to arrest any person under 21 for possession of marijuana. Instead, the officers can seize the marijuana and give the person a written warning. The officer cannot notify a parent or guardian of a person 17 or younger of the written warning unless it is the person’s second offense.

The police cannot use the smell of marijuana to justify searching the car of a person 21 or under, even if the officer sees marijuana in plain view. Moreover, the police cannot ask for the person’s consent to search.

Contact an Experienced Marijuana Defense Attorney Right Away with Questions About the New Jersey Weed Laws of 2021

It is quite clear that the legislature made police officers’ jobs significantly more difficult by passing these new laws. However, these laws will reduce the number of contacts police have with citizens. Additionally, these laws do not completely take away the authority of the police. The new legislation allows the police to investigate serious public safety matters like intoxicated driving.

Police and prosecutors will always try to get the upper hand and use the law to their advantage. I should know. As a prosecutor, I learned to advocate zealously but fairly. I now use my skills and experience to fight for people like you. With over 30 years in practice, I have earned a reputation for winning tough cases. Call the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty today for more information. We are available 24/7 to take your call.

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