In New Jersey, marijuana commonly known as “pot” can be legally used to treat certain illnesses such as seizure disorders, HIV/AIDs, cancer, Inflammatory bowel disease, glaucoma and a variety of other diseases that cause pain or terminal illness. Patients as well as their designated caretakers are required to obtain Medical Marijuana Cards. Only two ounces of pot can be prescribed in a month to a patient who can obtain the medical marijuana from a New Jersey state-licensed dispensaries. The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, N.J.S.A. 24:61-1 (CUMMA) was passed in 2010. It is a relatively new law and questions often arise regarding its impact on other areas of law such as driving under the influence (DUI) N.J.S.A 39:4-50 and possession.
New Jersey Medical Marijuana Law – Court Interpretation
In September 2015, a New Jersey Appellate Court passed a ruling in a case involving an arrest for unlawful possession of marijuana and a handgun. The police discovered these items during a search of a parked car that was triggered by the smell of pot. The defendant's attorney sought to have the charges dismissed based on the Medical Marijuana Law. The main argument was that since pot is no longer contraband, i.e. illegal, the police search was not justified. The court however, did not agree with this contention and ruled that the search was legal.
The ruling in State vs. Myers says; “We hold that absent evidence the person suspected of possessing or using marijuana has a registry identification card, detection of marijuana by the sense of smell, or by the other senses, provides probable cause to believe that the crime of unlawful possession of marijuana has been committed.”
The ruling reinforced the use of odor for probable cause in New Jersey to initiate a search with the assumption that a crime is being committed. While making its decision, the court also noted that possession of pot without a medical marijuana card is a crime. The New Jersey Drug Possession (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10) laws states that it is unlawful for any person to knowingly obtain or possess a controlled dangerous substance which includes pot.
Medical Marijuana Card Holders and DUI
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) are a violation of New Jersey state law under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The appellate court's observations in regards to the case mentioned above, emphasizes and makes it clear that the New Jersey DUI law does not make any exceptions for Medical Marijuana Card Holders. If these card holders drive under the influence of pot, DUI charges can be filed. Whether or not the pot was legally obtained, is not going to make a difference. Those arrested for driving under the influence of pot still face the same legal ramifications as those arrested for drinking alcohol including suspension of driving privileges, fines, surcharges and intoxication driver resource center (IDRC) classes.
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