As a New Jersey criminal defense attorney, I have helped countless clients charged with possession of marijuana avoid conviction. Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana Under 50 Grams, under sub-section (4) of 2C:35-10 is one of the most common disorderly persons offenses a criminal lawyer encounters. Why? Because it is a very popular controlled substance, there is a very casual attitude about it’s use, and it has a strong distinct odor. This means that there are a greater number of people using marijuana than other controlled substances. Because of the casual attitude towards marijuana, people sometimes forget that it is in fact illegal, or resent having to behave in a secretive way about using it when they ought to be more discreet in order to avoid detection. Both raw, unburned marijuana, as well as marijuana smoke have a strong odor which permeates cars, hair, clothes, and even tends to linger outdoors. This gives law enforcement a big advantage in detecting the presence or use of the drug. All this translates into a large number of arrests. My office is located near Rutgers University. I have spoken to many Rutgers and New Brunswick police officers who candidly tell me how prevalent marijuana use seems to be, the high frequency with which they smell it, and how easy making those arrests are.
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.