A Halt on Marijuana Prosecutions . . . For Now
Posted by Scott Gorman - August 24, 2018

Less than two weeks after he was sworn in as Jersey City’s Chief Municipal Prosecutor, Jake Hudnut issued a memorandum that effectively decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Jersey City. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and, the following day, Grewal announced that Hudnut had overstepped his authority. However, despite taking this action, Grewal also sent a letter to New Jersey’s municipal prosecutors asking that they seek adjournments of all marijuana possession cases until September 4, 2018. In the interim, Grewal would offer guidance to clarify the scope of prosecutorial discretion in these cases.

While Grewal’s letter to prosecutors has been widely reported as a step towards decriminalization, it is not yet clear that Grewal will be establishing a policy of decriminalization of marijuana possession – or that he will even allow prosecutors to exercise discretion to do so. For now, we will just have to wait on the Attorney General – and perhaps the Legislature – to clarify how pending and future marijuana-related cases will be handled.

Decriminalize or Legalize?

A conviction for marijuana possession can have a lifetime of consequences. Convicted offenders can lose their homes, financial aid, and driver’s licenses. They can have difficulty finding employment, and they even find it difficult to contribute to their community. Decriminalization  – or enforcing a formal policy of non-prosecution – would save many people from these harsh and unwarranted consequences, and several states around the country have taken the important step of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

But, while decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana would put an end to these types of life-altering scenarios, Governor Phil Murphy and State Senator and Linden Municipal Prosecutor Nicolas Scutari have expressed a preference for New Jersey to go even further. Governor Murphy and Senator Scutari have both publicly favored the legalization of recreational marijuana. While decriminalization would provide protection against prosecution, legalization would mean that possession of marijuana for recreational purposes would no longer constitute a criminal offense.

What are Your Rights if You are Currently Facing a Marijuana Possession Charge in New Jersey?

While Attorney General Grewal’s letter has caused many prosecutions to be put on hold, it has also resulted in a great deal of uncertainty. Defense attorneys, municipal prosecutors, and judges alike are unsure what the State’s policy on marijuana prosecutions will be in the near future. When even the courts don’t know what to expect, how are defendants who are currently facing marijuana possession charges supposed to know what to do?

As we wait for the Attorney General and the Legislature to provide clarification, defendants who are currently facing marijuana possession charges still enjoy the constitutional right to a speedy trial. With the State asking effectively asking the courts to grant them a timeout, certain defendants may benefit from taking a more aggressive approach and insisting upon a speedy trial while it is unclear whether municipal prosecutors will even try to line up the witnesses necessary to prove their guilt. On the other hand, defendants could also benefit from giving the Attorney General time to offer further guidance, with the ideal scenario being the issuance of clear guidance not to prosecute marijuana possession charges.

Speak With Attorney Scott Gorman About Your Marijuana Possession Case

If you are facing marijuana possession charges in New Jersey, it is important that you speak with an attorney about your options. To discuss your case with Hackensack criminal defense lawyer Scott Gorman, call 201-489-9199 or request an appointment online now.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense