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What will new marijuana legislation mean for criminal defense?

| Nov 24, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

There were many contentious issues around the country in the most recent election. Many jurisdictions had laws pertaining to marijuana usage, and voters passed a great number of them, signaling changing views about a drug that many once considered very dangerous. Even so, there are many legal issues to work out, even with voters lending their support.

Here in New Jersey, voters decided to decriminalize the marijuana possession up to a certain amount. The new laws would also make it legal to distribute small amounts of the drug. However, the issue doesn’t end here, as lawmakers now have to decide on the details of this legislation. There could be misunderstandings about what is actually legal, making competent criminal defense important to many people’s lives. Here is what you need to know about where this issue currently stands.

What voters approved

This new legislation started in June, with lawmakers proposing the legalization of possessing up to a pound of marijuana. However, that bill said nothing about distribution. What voters saw on their ballots is how the bill ended up amended — it would be legal to possess six ounces and legal to distribute one ounce if you are over the age of 21. First-time violators may receive a fine for a small amount for distribution of up to one ounce, but there is no punishment for those possessing up to six ounces.

However, an arrest for marijuana possession is still possible since the bill has not actually passed yet. Police can use their judgement in making arrests, but those arrests can still happen. Furthermore, lawmakers have to determine the details of how to regulate their new marijuana industry. This means it could take time for the legislation to fully enact.

What the future holds for legal marijuana

Some critics expressed disappointment that this bill doesn’t contain any provisions to address people arrested for this type of offense in the past. The state senator who sponsored the original bill, Teresa Ruiz, reports that she intends to change that fact. She also wants to pass legislation that would give marijuana tax revenue to schools in areas impacted by drug arrests.

Whatever the final laws look like, there will likely be questions around exactly what is and is not legal. If you or someone you care about is arrested for drug charges related to marijuana, you have the right to consider your strategy for criminal defense. It is important to give yourself the best chance possible and reduce the potential impact upon your life.

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