The general attitude toward marijuana has been changing over the years. Not long ago, people would not have questioned the legality in New Jersey. They just knew that marijuana was illegal at the state and federal level all over the country.
That's not true anymore. While it's still illegal federally, many states are adopting pro-marijuana laws. These started in places like Colorado, but they have since spread all the way to Michigan and a handful of other states. The stigma is changing for many people who, for their entire lives, thought of this as illegal.
But what about New Jersey? Is it part of this new wave of marijuana legality, or is buying, selling or using still illegal?
Let's start with medical marijuana. It is legal in New Jersey. There are many restrictions on how you can get it, what conditions you need to have to qualify, how much you can own, and things of this nature. In that sense, the state treats it like any other prescription medication. You have to use it properly, but it's not illegal outright.
Of course, you can do things that constitute illegal actions, even when using the marijuana legally. For instance, if you use it and then drive, you could get picked up for impaired driving. This is no different than getting arrested for legally drinking alcohol after you turn 21 and then illegally driving while impaired.
Most of the new laws in the United States focus on recreational marijuana. In New Jersey, it is still illegal, just as it has been for decades. You cannot grow, buy, sell or use it recreationally.
The penalties are not as strict as you'll find for cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs, but they can be substantial. For instance, if you have:
- Under 50 grams: You could pay a fine of $1,000 and spend as long as six months behind bars. If you are also within 1,000 feet of a school when arrested, you could get a larger fine and have to do 100 hours of community service.
- Over 50 grams: You could get felony charges, which stay on your record. You could pay a fine of $25,000 and you may have to spend a year and a half in jail.
The severity of the punishment may also depend on whether or not the authorities think you just used marijuana yourself or if you sold it to others.
There may come a day when the marijuana laws change in New Jersey, but it has not come yet. Make sure you know about your legal defense options after an arrest.