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While many states are beginning to legalize marijuana, New Jersey still treats marijuana charges such as possession and distribution as serious criminal offenses with serious penalties. Marijuana possession and distribution charges and penalties can vary greatly depending on the amount of marijuana, location, and circumstances of the arrest.

Possession of less than 50 grams of Marijuana: Commonly referred to as “Simple Possession”, possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) in New Jersey, and is heard in the municipal court.  The penalties are as follows:

  • A fine of up to $1,000.00 plus additional mandatory fees totaling $758.00;
  • 6 to 24 months suspension of driving privilege; and
  • Up to six months jail

Criminal Record and Student Financial Aid:  While it is extremely unlikely that you will be sentenced to jail for a first offense, the suspension of driving privilege and resulting criminal record may interfere with future employment opportunities.  Furthermore, students who are convicted of the possession or sale of any illegal drugs while receiving student aid will have their eligibility suspended for a period of time. The duration depends on whether the person is charged with simple possession or possession with intent to distribute, and whether it is a first or subsequent offense.

Possession of Marijuana in a School Zone: If the marijuana was possessed within 1,000 feet of any school property or a school bus, 100 hours of community service can be added to your existing charges.

Possession of more than 50 grams of Marijuana: This is considered a fourth degree crime (felony), and the charge will be referred to the County Prosecutor’s Office. The fine can be up to $25,000 and the sentence may include up to 18 months in State prison.

Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute: There is a presumption in the law that a person in possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana does so with the intent to sell (distribute) it to others.  However, the mere fact that you have less than 50 grams does not automatically mean that you cannot be charged with distribution.  Evidence found at the scene of the arrest, such as scale or baggies, may be used as evidence that you had the intent to sell the marijuana, even in small amounts, to others.  The penalties for  for Distributing or Manufacturing Marijuana in New Jersey are severe, and vary according to the weight of the marijuana in question:

  • Less than one ounce is a fourth degree crime, and can include fines of up to $25,000 and up to 18 months in prison;
  • Between one ounce and five pounds is a third degree crime and can include fines of up to $25,000 and up to five years in prison;
  • Between five pounds and twenty-five pounds is a second degree crime and can include fines of up to $150,000 and up to ten years in prison;
  • More than twenty-five pounds is a first degree crime and can include fines of up to $300,000 and up to twenty years in prison.

Third Degree Distribution On or Within 1,000 Feet of School Property: If  you are convicted of intent to distribute marijuana in a drug-free school zone, the charge will be elevated to a third degree crime, punishable by:

  • 3 to 5 years of prison time;
  • Mandatory minimum time frame of parole ineligibility of between one third and one half of the total sentence, or three years, whichever is greater;
  • Fines of up to $150,000

Please note: If the charge involved less than one ounce of marijuana, the period of parole ineligibility is lessened to between one third and one half of the total sentence or one year, whichever is greater.

Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle: Marijuana arrests are very often the result of a routine motor vehicle stop.  In addition to being arrested for possession of marijuana, you will most likely be issued a traffic ticket for a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 (Drug Possession By Motor Vehicle Operator).  The penalties for this offense are a fine of not less than $50.00, and a mandatory suspension of your driving privilege for a period of two (2) years. 

Conditional Discharge:  For first offenders, there is a program known as a “conditional discharge.”  If you qualify for this program, the Court will place you on a period of probation, usually one year.  If you successfully complete the probation by remaining drug-free and arrest-free, the charge will be dismissed at the end of the probationary period. The fees associated with a conditional discharge usually total $833.00

If you have been charged with Possession of Marijuana or any drug offense, you need to act quickly. Call Elliot Stomel today for your free telephone consultation at 856-216-1700.


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