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Here's How NJ Prosecutors Must Handle Pot Cases For At Least Next Two Months

NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal
NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Photo Credit: New Jersey OAG

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on Wednesday told prosecutors to drop most pot possession cases for at least two months while lawmakers hash out a new law. 

Driving under the influence remains a crime, however, as does selling or having pot for sale, he said.

Grewal told municipal, county and state prosecutors to either dismiss simple possession charges without prejudice or adjourn them until Jan. 25.

Cases that involve a marijuana possession charge among other offenses should drop that count and pursue the others, the attorney general said.

“Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature on the parameters for decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of regulated adult-use cannabis," Grewal said.

"It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action," he said.

The move follows the historic Nov. 3 election vote in which more than two-thirds of New Jersey voters approved legalizing pot.

Although the results of the ballot question amended the state constitution to legalize a limited amount of marijuana possession for those 21 and older, it requires regulations from the Legislature.

There’s the problem.

State lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on how to regulate the legal cannabis industry.

The state Senate OK’d a separate bill last week that would allow possession without penalty of up to six ounces of pot, but the Assembly nixed the plan after psychedelic mushrooms were added.

Grewal’s policy change will affect seven specific laws – including those that outlaw possession of up to 1.76 ounces of pot, as well as being under the influence of marijuana.

It directs the adjournment for two months of any adult or juvenile cases involving:

  • possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(3);
  • possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(4);
  • being under the influence of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(c);
  • failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(d);
  • use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia under N.J.S. 2C:36-2 involving only marijuana or hashish;
  • possession of a controlled dangerous substance while operating a motor vehicle in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-49.1 involving only marijuana or hashish; 
  • any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense subject to conditional discharge pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:36A-1 involving only marijuana or hashish.

“In cases where there are other pending charges in addition to the marijuana possession-related offenses enumerated above, prosecutors shall use their discretion to either postpone the case in its entirety or seek dismissal, without prejudice, of the above-enumerated marijuana possession-related charge(s) and proceed with prosecution of the remaining charges,” the memo says.

“More comprehensive guidance, including direction on handling previously adjudicated matters, will follow when the Legislature provides details of the framework for marijuana decriminalization and the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” it adds.


Guidance for Marijuana Possession Cases Pending in Municipal and Superior Courts

Guidance Regarding Municipal Prosecutors’ Discretion in Prosecuting Marijuana and Other Criminal Offenses

Interim Guidance on the Constitutional Amendment Legalizing Cannabis

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