Classification of Marijuana Charges in New Jersey
In New Jersey, possession of marijuana is an offense classified as either a disorderly persons offense (less than 50 grams) or an indictable crime (50 grams or more). If you are not eligible for diversionary programs, such as conditional discharge or pretrial intervention, you face serious consequences such as fines, loss of your driver’s license, and time in jail or prison if you are convicted. In addition, you may end up with a permanent criminal record, which may cause you to lose your job and make it extremely difficult to find future employment.
The New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program
Individuals who are enrolled in the New Jersey Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program are allowed to be in possession of marijuana for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition. In order to apply for the program, you must have a qualifying illness, such as muscular dystrophy, terminal cancer or multiple sclerosis. You must also have a “bona-fide” relationship with a physician who is a registered member of the program. The Department of Health defines a bonafide relationship as “a relationship in which the physician has ongoing responsibility for the assessment, care, and treatment of a patient’s debilitating medical condition.” More information about eligibility requirements and how to apply for the program can be found on the State of New Jersey’s website.
Low Enrollment in NJ Medial Marijuana Program So Far
The New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program recently came under scrutiny when low enrollment figures indicated that only 2,343 patients had signed up for the program since the first dispensary opened in 2012. Low enrollment was also the main reason for the resignation of Bill Thomas, CEO of the Compassionate Care Foundation— the medical marijuana dispensary of South Jersey. Proponents of the program blame the strict enrollment rules, such as the requirement that patients must obtain written certification from a participating physician—of which there are very few. In addition, the enrollment fee for the program is $200, which is much higher than fees charged by dispensaries in other states. Patients have also complained about the inconvenience of driving long distances to get to a dispensary, of which there are only three in the entire state. Certain requirements are seen as excessive, such as mandating patients to be re-authorized every 90 days even if they have an incurable or terminal illness.
Charged with Marijuana Possession in NJ?
Regardless of the program’s success, it seems clear that New Jersey will maintain its stance on tough penalties for those found to be in possession of marijuana. Even if you do have a qualifying medical condition, you will be arrested for possession of marijuana unless you are a patient or primary caregiver registered with one of the state’s approved dispensaries.
If you have questions about your rights concerning New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, please call Villani & DeLuca at (732) 965-3350. If you believe that you were unjustly charged with marijuana possession, our experienced criminal defense lawyers will review your case to ensure that your rights were not violated. Please schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss all the available options for resolving your charges.