Marijuana Possession and Other Drug Offenses

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hamilton drug crime attorney Leon Matchin opened his own law firm in 2002 to defend individuals charged with a wide range of criminal offenses, including those related to drugs. A deep understanding of New Jersey’s drug crime laws makes Mr. Matchin a formidable opponent to prosecutors in the courtroom. Mr. Matchin has successfully defeated numerous drug charges for criminal defendants in the Municipal and Superior Courts of Mercer, Monmouth, and Middlesex Counties, as well as in other nearby areas.

New Jersey Drug Laws

New Jersey Statutes, Title 2C, Chapter 35-1 (N.J.S.2C:35-1) provides the statutory framework for the state’s drug offenses. Also known as the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987, this chapter also incorporates laws and regulations made in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act. Prohibited controlled substances are defined in N.J.S.2C:35-2 to include any:

  • Drugs, substances, or precursors in Schedules I through V
  • Ingested drug metabolized by the body into a controlled substance
  • “Analog” or substance with substantially similar chemical structure
  • Prescription pharmaceuticals, homeopathic drugs, and their supplements
  • Principal compound or chemical intermediary used to make controlled substance
  • Counterfeit drug, analog, container or label bearing manufacturer’s name or mark
  • Hashish, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), heroin, opiate or morphine-like drug
  • Flunitrazepam, synthetic cannabinoid, gamma hydroxybutyrate, lysergic acid (LSD)

The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice was enacted to ensure a uniform system for sentencing convicted drug offenders based on the seriousness and degree of the crime. Enhanced penalties are intended to deter serious offenders, considering the “nature and purity” of the drug, the role of the actor, and proximity to any “specially protected” areas such as schools, pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-1.1

Marijuana Possession

N.J.S.2C:35-10 treats marijuana as a “controlled substance” but limits the amount necessary to qualify as possession. N.J.S.2C:35-10a(4) specifically classifies possession of 50 grams or less as a disorderly persons offense. Carrying what New Jersey law considers to be a “small amount” of marijuana is punishable by 6 months’ imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines. The statutes do not distinguish between amounts of less than 50 grams. However, any amount over 50 grams drastically elevates a disorderly persons offense to a felony. Whether the individual possesses 0.1 grams over the limit or much more, punishment under N.J.S.2C:35-10a(3) is the same. The felony is punishable by a maximum of 18 months in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, and 24-month suspension of one’s driver’s license.

Classification of Drug Offenses

Controlled substances are classified according to schedules set forth by the Department of Law and Public Safety. The degree of the crime generally falls—and therefore becomes more serious—with the schedules. Crimes involving Schedule I substances, for example, can carry harsher penalties, depending on the quantity of drug and action involved. Prohibited acts include:

  • Maintaining or operating a production facility
  • Fortifying manufacturing or distribution facility
  • Obtaining, possessing, distributing, or dispensing
  • Leading or financing a narcotics trafficking network
  • Fraudulently obtaining any drug, analog, or imitation
  • Employing any juvenile in a drug distribution scheme
  • Distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of school property
  • Unauthorized distribution of prescription pharmaceuticals

Pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-5, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly or purposely participate in any of these acts. The prohibition extends to include creating or cultivating any drug, having certain drug paraphernalia, and controlling any controlled substance with intent to manufacture or distribute the drug. Any violation of this section gives rise to varying degrees of criminal charges.

Consequences for a Drug Conviction

Two important factors in determining the degree of crime and sentencing in this context are the quantity and quality of drugs involved. Possession or sale of relatively “small” amounts of a more serious substance can still be punished severely. The manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to dispense five ounces or more of heroin, LSD, or meth is a first-degree crime punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment, an additional term without parole, and up to $500,000 in fines; on the other hand, the sale of marijuana in a quantity between one and five ounces is a third-degree crime. Drug-related penalties may also include imposition of a restraining order, required drug tests, lost driving privileges, and notification to landlord of a tenant’s drug conviction.

Defeating Drug Charges

If you have been charged or convicted of a drug offense, call Woodbridge criminal defense lawyer Leon Matchin for help. You may be eligible for a rehabilitation or diversionary program for first-time offenders. Mr. Matchin has also found good-faith exceptions for individuals who seek medical treatment, obtained dismissals based on lack of evidence, and secured drastically reduced penalties in numerous cases. When faced with the serious legal challenges posed by drug offenses, do not leave your future to chance. Call Mr. Matchin at (732) 662-7658 for experienced counsel or contact us online.