New Jersey to Resume Prosecution of Marijuana Offenses

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has ordered prosecutors to resume cases against people charged with possessing the drug, which the state’s top prosecutor had paused last month. Grewal declined to extend his July 24 order to suspend prosecutions for marijuana possession until Sept. 4. After that date, prosecutors must return to charging even minor marijuana crimes, although prosecutors could move to dismiss those cases for a number of reasons, including that a conviction would jeopardize a person’s parenting rights, immigration status or access to public housing. The attorney general also noted that prosecutors and judges can settle on relatively lenient penalties that would allow someone convicted of a minor marijuana offense to continue driving and to avoid jail time.

Lawmakers have been debating two approaches: creating a fully legal and taxed market for people 21 and older, or removing criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana without making sales legal. Some proponents of legal weed interpreted Grewal’s July 24 order as laying the groundwork for permanently ending prosecutions for possessing small amounts of the drug in New Jersey. The governor set a target of Jan. 1, 2019 for legal sales in his proposed budget, but lawmakers stripped out anticipated marijuana tax revenue from the final budget, effectively conceding that legalization would not happen by then.

Grewal’s earlier order to suspend marijuana prosecutions stemmed from a dispute with Jersey City, which had halted prosecutions on its own. Two days later, Grewal told Jersey City that it lacked the authority to ignore provisions of the law with which it disagreed. After discussions with Jersey City officials, Grewal announced a statewide pause on marijuana prosecutions pending the work of a panel he formed to advise a longer-term approach. The 20-person panel, whose work concluded Tuesday, was dominated by people with law-enforcement backgrounds but also included two leaders of civil-rights groups that endorse marijuana legalization.

If you’re facing a criminal charge in Hackensack, Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, Lodi or anywhere else in NJ, there’s no time to waste. Frank T. Luciano, P.C. is eager to speak with you and to begin discussing your case and a defense strategy to limit the legal recourse. To get started with an initial consultation, contact Mr. Luciano today at 973-471-0004.

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