New Jersey Defense Lawyers: Marijuana Possession or Distribution
Former New Jersey Prosecutor
The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall defend individuals charged with possession of marijuana (also known as "pot" or "weed") or distribution of marijuana throughout New Jersey. Our attorneys have experience in handling marijuana complaints and indictments at every level of New Jersey's Court system, and they are available immediately for a free initial consultation on your Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Ocean County, Essex County, Mercer County, Hudson or Morris County case.
The marijuana possession and marijuana distribution laws and penalties vary in New Jersey depending on the nature of the possession (i.e. simple possession or possession with intent to distribute), the quantity of marijuana involved, and whether it is the accused's First Offense, Second Offense or Third Offense.
New Jersey's "Simple" Possession Law
New Jersey's Simple Possession Law with respect to marijuana is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(3) and provides that it is "unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively... [and that] and any person who violates this section" is subject to the following:
(3) Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or more than five grams of hashish is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $25,000.00 may be imposed; or
(4) Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or five grams or less of hashish is a disorderly person.
A competent marijuana possession defense lawyer shall obviously explore all potential defenses including, but not limited to, whether there was a proper Search and Seizure of the marijuana. However, even where no substantive defense exists to a charge, an individual can resort to various programs to avoid a conviction on the charge. In this regard, an individual charged under subsection (3) is subject to a Fourth Degree Offense, which is an indictable criminal offense which would typically be handled at the County level, but would be eligible for diversion of any indictment through Pretrial Intervention or Drug Court provided the requirements of these programs are otherwise met. A disorderly persons offense brought under subsection (4) would be handled in Municipal Court and would be eligible for Conditional Discharge.
Under the Influence of Marijuana & Improper Disposition
It should be kept in mind that an individual may also be charged with being under the influence of marijuana and that this is a separate and independent offense from possessing marijuana. The related charge would be brought under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b) and is a disorderly persons offense. Police officers may also file companion disorderly persons charge for improper disposition offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 (c).
Possession of Marijuana in a School Zone
There are enhanced penalties for possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school zone under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. This provision mandates that an individual perform at least 100 hours of community service above and beyond whatever other penalties are imposed if he possesses marijuana "while on any property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of any such school property or a school bus, or while on any school bus".
Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana in New Jersey
There are significant penalties for manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing marijuana in New Jersey. The New Jersey Drug Distribution statute, which is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5, specifically addresses possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and grades the possession based on the weight of the marijuana involved. More specifically, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b) provides that:
(10) (a) Marijuana in a quantity of 25 pounds or more including any adulterants or dilutants, or 50 or more marijuana plants, regardless of weight, or hashish in a quantity of five pounds or more including any adulterants or dilutants, is guilty of a crime of the first degree. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $300,000.00 may be imposed;
(b) Marijuana in a quantity of five pounds or more but less than 25 pounds including any adulterants or dilutants, or 10 or more but fewer than 50 marijuana plants, regardless of weight, or hashish in a quantity of one pound or more but less than five pounds, including any adulterants and dilutants, is guilty of a crime of the second degree;
(11) Marijuana in a quantity of one ounce or more but less than five pounds including any adulterants or dilutants, or hashish in a quantity of five grams or more but less than one pound including any adulterants or dilutants, is guilty of a crime of the third degree except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $25,000.00 may be imposed;
Marijuana in a quantity of less than one ounce including any adulterants or dilutants, or hashish in a quantity of less than five grams including any adulterants or dilutants, is guilty of
a crime of the fourth degree;
The determinative factor with respect to penalties for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, commonly referred to distribution of marijuana, is the weight of the marijuana, pot, or weed involved. If the weight is in excess of twenty five (25) pounds, the distribution of marijuana is a first degree offense. If the weight is in excess of five (5) pounds but less than twenty five (25) pounds, it is a crime of the second degree. If the weight is greater than one ounce but less than five (5) pounds, it is a crime of the third degree. Finally, if the weight is less than an ounce, the distribution is a fourth degree offense in New Jersey. Please refer to our Degree of Offense page for more information on precisely what is involved in terms of penalties for First, Second, Third & Fourth Degree Offenses.
Notwithstanding the fact that the charge involves distribution, a suspect may still avoid conviction through Pretrial Intervention where the offense is a Third or Fourth Degree Charge. Indictments involving Second or First Degree Marijuana Possession with Intent to Distribute would not be eligible for Pretrial Intervention but admission into the program would still be permissible with consent of the Prosecutor. Drug Court is another diversion option and this would apply irrespective of the Degree of Offense. While penalties for a First Offense for marijuana distribution can be less complicated, the situation becomes much more technical when someone is subject to a Second or Third Offense for marijuana distribution.
Possession of Marijuana in a School Zone with Intent to Distribute
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 sets forth enhanced penalties for distributing marijuana within a school zone. The statute provides for a period of incarceration and/or parole ineligibility as follows. "Where the violation involves less than one ounce of marijuana, the term of imprisonment shall include the imposition of a minimum term which shall be fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed, or one year, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole." Where the weight exceeds one ounce, the parole ineligibility percentages remain the same but the minimum term is increased to 3 years as opposed to one year.
Possession of Marijuana in Proximity of Public Housing Facility or Park with Intent to Distribute
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 provides for an upward adjustment on the grading of indictments for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute where the offense is committed within 500 feet of a public housing project or public park. More specifically, the offense shall be treated as a Second Degree Offense as opposed to the Third Degree Offense where a suspect is in possession of between one ounce and five ounces of marijuana with intent to distribute and it is in proximity to a public housing project or park. The indictment for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute would normally be a Third Degree Offense under these circumstances.
The defenses to a indictment or complaint for possession or distribution of marijuana can become rather complex and the criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall are prepared to assert them on your behalf. Indeed, a Search and Seizure is subject to many constitutional and procedure requirements in order for it to be valid and our criminal attorneys are experienced in handling these issues. A law office is accessible throughout NJ including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Ocean County, Essex County, Mercer County, Hudson County and Morris County. Please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free initial consultation.
Helpful Marijuana Possession Resources:
Drug Related Laws in New Jersey: http://health.rutgers.edu/drugs/nj_drug_laws.htm
Facts & Figures on U.S. Marijuana Possession: www.whitehousedrug policy.gov/drugfact/ marijuana/index.html
Marijuana Addiction Assistance: www. marijuana- anonymous.org/