While many states across the nation have taken the step of decriminalizing marijuana, New Jersey has yet to do so. People who are arrested and charged with marijuana possession can face a variety of penalties that can complicate their lives. The law dictates the consequences for a marijuana arrest. Recently, a new bill was introduced to reduce the penalties for a certain amount of marijuana.
People who would currently be arrested if they have one pound or less of the drug would not be treated as harshly under the new proposed bill. This is not a legalization of marijuana. It would give law enforcement the ability to issue a written warning for a first offense. For a second offense and beyond, there would be a fine of $25 or the order to perform community service instead of paying the fine.
Currently, a person arrested and convicted of possessing 50 grams or less would be jailed for six months and fined $1,000. One state senator believes these penalties disproportionately penalize people of color causing them problems for a violation that is not perceived to be excessively harmful. Another important aspect of a marijuana arrest – expungement – is addressed in the bill. People with past convictions for certain charges will have their cases cleared as if it never happened. They will not need to request an expungement.
Prosecutors and law enforcement understand there is a difference between people who are trafficking and distributing illegal drugs and those who are in possession of drugs like marijuana and drug paraphernalia for their own use. With this bill, it can benefit people who have a small amount of the drug. The elimination of the need for an expungement is also beneficial as it can help people whose goals were hindered by a marijuana or hashish conviction avoid the ancillary penalties negatively impacting their personal and professional lives.
While this proposed law is a positive step for people confronted with drug crimes for a small amount of marijuana, it has not yet passed. With many laws, there are often holdups that can delay it. Counting on it is unwise until it has passed. Those who are arrested for marijuana should be cognizant of the penalties and how it can cause problems for them with employment, education and other endeavors. A law firm with a history of assisting those dealing with drug crimes may be able to help.