Articles Posted in Drug Charges

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You read that right, folks! In what some are considering a big step towards legalization (or at least decriminalization), New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal sent a letter to all municipal prosecutors in the state directing them to seek adjournments of all marijuana related cases until September 4, 2018 or later. It is being reported that AG Grewal is seeking this delay so that his office may develop “appropriate guidance”, for prosecutors. “What does that mean for my case?” you may be asking.

dutch-weed-403-m-150x150What does it REALLY mean? Good question. Last week we heard that Jersey City sought to establish a marijuana decriminalization policy. Almost immediately the AG’s Office said no way… And now this. Confusing to be sure, and reading the tea leaves may not be easy. Ordinarily, Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana (under 50 grams) N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a $1,000 dollar fine, six months in county jail, and a potential suspension of your driving privileges for up to six months (to read more about this offense, click here). While this move by the AG could indeed signal a step towards decriminalization, It is certainly no guarantee. One thing is for sure; such a move would have major implications for prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and New Jersey citizens charged with marijuana related offenses.

roach-439288-m-150x150It has been rumored for years that New Jersey was seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use. In reality, it has been more than just rumor. Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has been drafting legislation for years, and has been pushing the same. Alas, the legislation has stalled, yet again, as legislators in Trenton bicker as to what form this should take. Concerns include tax revenue, health considerations, and legal implications. Whatever the intent behind this request for a delay in prosecution of pending cases means, this attorney strongly cautions against getting carried away, and presuming that you are free to toke up without legal consequences. Indeed, to do so would not be wise!

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What is drug paraphernalia? In New Jersey, being charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia under 2C:36-2, mean you have in your possession with intent to use, a wide variety of items, as described generally and in detail by 2C:36-1, to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled dangerous substance, controlled substance analog, or toxic chemical. That covers quite a bit of ground, and would seemingly include a lot of items that have a perfectly lawful purpose… like plastic baggies. So, how does a prosecution determine that items are drug paraphernalia, and not a lawful item?

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In New Jersey, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS), defined under 2C:35-2, is usually an indictable offense, except for possession of marijuana which is a disorderly persons offense if it is under 50 grams.  Possession of all other drugs; cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and molly, PCP, LSD, methamphetamines, most prescription drugs for which there is no prescription, is an indictable offense, even in the smallest of quantities. Even residue of cocaine, for example, left on the inside of a plastic bag will qualify as possession of the drug as long as there is a sufficient quantity for swabbing and testing.  Possession of the substances listed above and any other substance scheduled as I, II, III, and IV, under 2C:35-10, are 3rd degree indictable offenses, which carry a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $35,000. Possession of a schedule V substances (usually pharmaceuticals in very low concentrations that have little possibility for abuse) is graded as a 4th degree offense, which has a statutory maximum penalty of 18 months in state prison, and a fine of up to $15,000.

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Pot, weed, ganja, chronic, whatever you want to call it, never before has marijuana been so prevalent in the media, or made such advances towards legalization than it has in the last few years.  The argument has long been made, that getting high is no worse for you than smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic beverages.  Some doctors have even suggested that systemically, marijuana is actually less harmful to your health than alcohol.  If that were true, why is marijuana illegal?  The theories are numerous.  Some suggest that total legalization would make it too difficult for the government to regulate, as people could grow and sell marijuana without paying taxes.  Others believe that marijuana is not as harmless as advocates suggest, and that it not only has deleterious physical and psychological health issues, but also that legalization would increase the number of people driving their cars while high.  So what is the truth?  While you can find numerous “expert reports” and articles on both sides of the debate, which argue very persuasively, the reality is that there is no decisive evidence on either side.  Reading everything there is to read on the subject, I am of the opinion that marijuana is neither as dangerous as some in law enforcement would seem to suggest, nor is it as harmless as proponents of legalization would argue.  As such, whether to toke, or not toke remains a very personal decision for many people.

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If you have been paying attention, you have become aware of a very serious problem in New Jersey. Heroin… Authorities are calling the problem an epidemic, with record rates of addiction, overdose, and purity of the drug. A report by the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey Youth and Young Adults has identified heroin and opiate abuse as the number one healthcare crisis in the state. According to the DEA, the purity hovers around 58%, a 12% increase from 2011.  See more DEA analysis, here.  The drug is being trafficked from South America and is arriving in ports in the United States in Newark, Elizabeth, and Philadelphia. In 2012, there were 557 heroin deaths from overdose, which does not even include the untold number of deaths that are always a part of the drug trade. Certain counties seem to be getting hit harder than others; Ocean County and Monmouth County in particular, but with its high purity, easy availability, and cheap price (a bag of quality heroin can be purchased on the street for 5 dollars) it is not hard to see why the drug has made its way across the entire state. As a veteran criminal defense attorney who has represented countless clients charged with indictable drug offenses over the years, it is easy for me see that the number of heroin arrests has trended dramatically upward. It is driving otherwise good people, adults and kids alike, into committing crimes, thefts and burglaries, to support the addiction.

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