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Are There Legal Consequences for Marijuana in New Jersey Anymore?

June 29, 2024

NJ Laws Have Eased Up on Marijuana and Cannabis Products. However, the Reality is You can Still be Charged with Violating Critical Parameters.

Are There Legal Consequences for Marijuana in New Jersey Anymore?

With the decriminalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey, the distinction between holding a medical marijuana card and possessing legal recreational marijuana is critical to avoiding legal consequences. While both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana possession are not necessarily going to result in marijuana charges under current laws, you must be aware of the laws regarding both to avoid a drug possession, distribution, or driving under the influence of marijuana conviction.

How it Began: Medical Marijuana in New Jersey

Medical marijuana was made available to qualified patients in 2010 with the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, long before recreational marijuana legislation was passed in 2021 through the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act. Both laws have been subsequently amended with additional guidelines and elements; however, their fundamental purposes remain. In the realm of New Jersey’s medical marijuana system, a qualified patient has one or more of the specified conditions that marijuana helps by easing pain, anxiety, or other symptoms. Once qualified, the patient may obtain medicinal marijuana from a state-sanctioned dispensary or Alternative Treatment Center.  

Who Qualifies for a Medical Marijuana Card in NJ?

A patient qualifies for medicinal marijuana when they are a New Jersey resident, a legitimate patient of a healthcare provider who supplies an Authorizing Provider Statement, and diagnosed with a medical condition for which marijuana has proven benefits. Qualifying conditions are those for which cannabis provides relief. Active compounds in cannabis, such as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), help with mood, pain, appetite, seizures, and inflammation. Specifically, the qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana cards (MMCs) are as follows:

Physical conditions:

Mental health conditions:

To receive a medicinal marijuana card, a patient must show proof of their residency in New Jersey and their diagnosis by a medical provider. A legitimate doctor-patient relationship is ongoing, not just a one-time consultation. The relationship must be at least a year old. Alternatively, the provider evaluated the patient for a qualifying medical condition after at least four visits. Otherwise, the healthcare professional thoroughly examines the patient’s medical history, conducts a physical examination, and takes them as a patient to treat a qualifying condition.

Process to Register for Medicinal Marijuana in NJ

With an Authorizing Provider Statement from a doctor, a patient can register online at the Medicinal Cannabis Program patient portal. The patient’s doctor supplies the ID numbers needed to register for an account where the patient can name the Alternative Treatment Center for medical marijuana purchases, upload their New Jersey ID, and get a medical marijuana card with an uploaded headshot photo. After registration, the user may receive up to 84 grams of medical marijuana from their healthcare provider each month.

Legal Protections for New Jersey Medical Marijuana Patients

As long as they follow the procedure and obey all legal restrictions, a medical marijuana user will not face drug charges. Provided the registration with the New Jersey Medicinal Cannabis Program (MCP) is complete and a patient abides by the laws and regulations, they are free to use cannabis medicinally.

Legal Limitations on Marijuana for New Jersey Residents and Visitors

Regulations and laws to be aware of are permissible consumption limits, restrictions on public use, driving while under the influence laws, and patient possession of their MCP card. One such legal limitation is driving while under the influence of marijuana since that could lead to a DUI conviction and serious legal consequences.

Also essential to remember is that state marijuana laws do not match federal regulations, which criminalize the possession, distribution, and manufacture of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Federal drug charges are highly punitive. A violator could face many years in federal prison. A user is likely to face federal charges when caught using marijuana on federal grounds, in federal parks, or in federal buildings. Moreover, carrying medical marijuana across state lines is a federal offense that could compound illegal possession and distribution charges under the nationwide Controlled Substances Act.

What Constitutes Illegal Possession of Marijuana under NJ Laws of Today?

New Jersey laws also punish illegal possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Those over 21 may have up to 6 ounces of cannabis or cannabis products, such as dried flower, concentrates, resin, vaporized oils, gummies, and other cannabis edible products. The MCP refers to cannabis as products sold in state-approved dispensaries in contrast to street sold marijuana, which refers to the underground, unregulated market. Thus, possession of over 6 ounces is illegal.

Penalties for illegal possession of marijuana by adults 21 or over are up to $10,000.00 in fines and 18 months in prison for a fourth degree crime when possessing over 6 ounces. Possession near a school adds 100 community service hours.

Marijuana Distribution Charges are Alive and Well in NJ

The quantity of cannabis someone holds is significant when the state files criminal charges. A higher quantity of marijuana, along with other marijuana distribution evidence, suggests more than recreational personal use and more like drug sales. A person may get a warning for selling less than an ounce of weed but more likely an arrest for a fourth degree crime when someone is caught for a second time with under an ounce of cannabis and appears to be selling or distributing it.

An ounce or more of marijuana up to 5 pounds for sale or distribution is a third degree crime which carries 3 to 5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine maximally. 5 pounds up to 25 pounds for distribution is a second degree crime punishable by a 5 to 10-year prison sentence and a $150,000.00 fine. Distributing or selling 25 pounds or more is a first degree crime carrying a 10 to 20-year prison term and a $300,000.00 fine.

Additional penalties are applicable when the sale occurs within 1,000 feet of school property or a school bus or within 500 feet of specific public property. Finally, selling to minors or pregnant women enhances the penalties.

Why Hire a Criminal Attorney to Defend Your Marijuana Case in NJ?

In essence, marijuana charges can include multiple crimes for the same actions, whether it be purchasing or possessing over the legal limits, selling illegally, or cultivating cannabis on your own. With so many dollars and confinement years on the line, an individual facing drug charges ought to consult with a marijuana defense attorney to discuss potential defenses.

When you face marijuana charges, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney helps you understand the charges and defenses, which may lower your stress level. First, your attorney will ascertain the amount of marijuana you had on you when arrested and whether you are a registered medical marijuana user. You may have tensed and forgotten to present your medical registration card to the officer who detained you. A valid card and an appropriate amount under the MCP make it easier to defend you since you comply with a legitimate program.

Nevertheless, even distributing a small amount of marijuana can mean spending a year or more in jail. Hence, you and your attorney need to prove that your marijuana supply is for personal use and not for sale. Otherwise, you may possibly face distribution charges that an attorney can challenge on several grounds or plea bargain to lesser charges, especially when you have no prior criminal history. Sometimes, a diversionary program like conditional discharge or Pre-Trial Intervention is the way to go depending on the degree of the marijuana charges in your case.

Driving under the influence of marijuana, however, is not within the medical marijuana program’s parameters, nor is it allowed in light of recreational marijuana laws in NJ. This traffic law violation carries serious punishments, including suspended driving privileges, fines, mandatory classes, insurance premium increases and surcharges annually. For all of these reasons, you need the best lawyer to defend your Drug DUI charge for marijuana in municipal court.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay to Discuss Your Marijuana Charge in Burlington County, NJ

Strong representation is what you need when facing stiff penalties for any of the marijuana offenses that still exist in New Jersey’s current legal landscape. If you are facing marijuana charges of any kind in Burlington County towns such as Pemberton, Marlton, Bordentown, Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Delran, Lumberton, Cinnaminson, or surrounding communities, call on an experienced attorney at our office today at (609) 850-8284 for a free consultation. We answer questions and discuss our superior legal representation anytime to best serve your needs by chatting with us online, sending an email, or calling us to learn more.

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New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
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Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
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