Possession and distribution of marijuana is a common offense in the New Jersey area. Marijuana possession and distribution laws as well as the penalties for violating such laws vary based on the quantity of the marijuana, the nature of the possession, and the prior offenses of the defendant being accused. Marijuana and hashish are grouped together under New Jersey Law. The Law Offices of Herbert I Ellis, P.C. offer experienced criminal defense in Freehold, New Jersey.
Simple Possession of Marijuana
Simple Possession Law in New Jersey states that an individual may not knowingly possess or obtain illegal substances including marijuana. Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana or five grams or less of hashish is considered a disorderly person charge. Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana or of more than five grams of hashish is considered a fourth degree offense and may carry a fine of up to $25,000.
There are many defenses your attorney may examine in your marijuana possession case such as whether there was a proper Search and Seizure. There are also several options a defendant may explore to avoid a conviction for a marijuana possession charge such as indictment through Pretrial Intervention or through Drug Court. A charge of disorderly persons offense, when the marijuana possession charge is for 50 grams or less, may be handled in Municipal Court and therefore eligible for Conditional Discharge.
Under the Influence of Marijuana
A charge of being under the influence of marijuana is an independent offense from marijuana possession. An under the influence charge is a disorderly persons offense and may be filed as a companion charge for improper disposition offense.
Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana
A charge of manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing marijuana carries significant penalties in the state of New Jersey. Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute is graded on the weight of the marijuana involved.
- Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish is a fourth degree offense
- Possession of at least one ounce and less than five ounces of marijuana or of at least one gram but less than one pound of hashish is a third degree offense and may carry a fine of up to $25,000.
- Possession of at least five pounds but less than 25 pounds of marijuana, at least 10 but less than 50 marijuana plants (regardless of weight), or at least one pound but less than five pounds of hashish is a second degree offense
- Possession of 25 pounds or more of marijuana, 50 or more marijuana plants, or five pounds or more of hashish is a first degree offense and may carry a fine of up to $300,000.
Despite what may be severe penalties for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, conviction in the case of a third or fourth degree charge may be avoided through Pretrial Intervention. In the case of an indictment involving a first second degree charge, admission into the Pretrial Intervention program is permissible only with the Prosecutor’s consent. Indictments for each of these charges may also be eligible for Drug Court as a diversion option. Penalties for marijuana distribution charges can be complicated, particularly in second or third offense cases. Consult with a skilled attorney to learn all of your options in a marijuana case in the state of New Jersey.
Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana in a School Zone
The penalties for both possession and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in a school zone are more severe. An individual charged with possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school zone must perform a minimum of 100 hours of community service in addition to any other penalties imposed for the charge. A school zone is considered any property leased to or owned by an elementary or secondary school or a school board used for school purposes, including school buses, or within 1,000 feet of any such property. Again, possession with the intent to distribute is based upon the weight of marijuana in question. If an individual possesses less than one ounce of marijuana and is accused of intent to distribute, the penalty will include imprisonment with a minimum term of one year or up to one half of the sentence imposed where the defendant is ineligible for parole. If the weight of marijuana is greater than one ounce, the minimum term of imprisonment is 3 years or up to one half the sentence given where the defendant is ineligible for parole.
Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana in or near Public Housing or a Public Park
Similar to a school zone, possession of marijuana or possession with intent to distribute in or near a public park or public housing carries additional penalties. If the defendant is accused of possession with intent to distribute between one ounce and five ounces of marijuana within 500 feet of a public park, public housing project, or other public property, the crime is elevated to a second degree offense rather than a third degree offense.
Defense of marijuana possession or distribution charges can be subject to a variety of procedure and constitutional requirements and can therefore become very complex. Our attorneys are well versed in these defenses and will find the best defense for your case. If you are facing any charges involving marijuana, contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Herbert I Ellis, P.C. today for a consultation.