Municipal Prosecutors Can Drop Marijuana Charges. But Will They?
Posted by Scott Gorman - September 28, 2018

On July 20th, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal asked municipal prosecutors across the state to put a hold on cases involving possession of a small amount of marijuana. Grewal asked for six weeks to provide further guidance as to how prosecutors could exercise discretion in deciding whether to continue to pursue these cases. The letter was held up as a critical first step toward decriminalizing the possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. This was perhaps a bit premature.

The long-awaited memorandum is, unfortunately, as clear as mud. Initial headlines announced that prosecutors were now free to dump marijuana prosecutions. That is true. However, what is also true is that the memorandum left prosecutors free to continue prosecuting small marijuana possession charges just as they had before the supposed “moratorium” on marijuana cases went into effect.

In a subsequent memorandum to New Jersey’s prosecutors dated August 29th, Grewal clarified that prosecutors are not authorized to set a blanket policy that all marijuana matters will be dismissed. He also reiterated that municipal prosecutors do not have the authority to influence decisions as to whether to people should be charged with possession of marijuana, and that municipal prosecutors are forbidden from dismissing charges of possession of marijuana as part of a plea bargain under New Jersey’s Rules of Court. At this point in the memorandum, proponents of decriminalizing marijuana possession would have found little cause for optimism.

However, Grewal also emphasized that municipal prosecutors are not without tools to amend or dismiss marijuana possession charges under appropriate circumstances. He clarified his view that prosecutors are vested with the authority to amend or dismiss marijuana cases for “good cause,” and that in determining whether “good cause” exists, prosecutors are entitled to consider:

  • Whether the State can prove its case;
  • Whether certain adverse consequences may result in an unjust outcome; and,
  • Whether pursuing marijuana possession charges will, “achieve individual justice in individual cases.”

What the “Good Cause” Rule Means for Your Marijuana Case

This “good cause” rule enables prosecutors to resolve marijuana possession cases in a way that most people thought was impermissible just two months ago. But how and whether it will be used will depend on the specific prosecutor involved in each individual case. As a result, now more than ever, a skilled defense attorney can make a huge difference in preventing marijuana possession cases from going forward by convincing the prosecutor that “good cause” exists to justify an amendment or an outright dismissal.

Are You Awaiting Trial on a Marijuana Possession Charge in Essex County, NJ?

If you were arrested for marijuana possession in Essex County, NJ and you are currently awaiting trial, you owe it to yourself to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your future could be on the line, and you cannot afford to leave the outcome of your case in the hands of a municipal prosecutor.

To discuss your marijuana possession case in confidence, contact The Gorman Law Firm and request a free, no-obligation consultation with defense attorney Scott Gorman. You can get in touch 24/7, so call 201-489-9199 or inquire online now.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense