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Marijuana Cases Put on Hold in Municipal Courts in New Jersey due to Impending Legislation

On Tuesday, July 24th, New Jersey Attorney General Gubrir Grewal notified prosecutors around the state to put a hold on marijuana-related cases that were pending in municipal court until September 4th. Why? Lawmakers are expecting to debate legalization of marijuana in the state by the end of the summer, and perhaps have a legalization bill in place by the end of the year. One suspected reason for the halt of marijuana related cases has to do with New York. Because New York is New Jersey’s neighbor, both states want to legalize around the same time in order to deter one state having a massive monetary gain over the other. Basically, whoever legalizes marijuana first will reap the rewards and vastly grow in terms of revenue. Now that marijuana and legalization are at the forefront of the media, New Jersey has deemed it the right time to put low-level marijuana cases on hold in order to properly reform laws.

While this means there is a good chance many low-level marijuana cases might be dismissed or take an extended amount of time to get through, this does not mean that marijuana is decriminalized. You can still can arrested and charged for possessing, using, or traveling with it. The only difference now is that all cases are being put on hold until lawmakers have decided what route they want to take when it comes to legalization. At that point, if they choose to legalize recreational use, most low-level cases will be dismissed. For distribution charges, you may be facing superior court, which means your case will not be on hold like a simple misdemeanor possession charge that would be dealt with in municipal court. Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, says “We must pump the brakes on marijuana arrests and prosecutions, and engage in a serious critical examination of how we handle the tens of thousands of marijuana arrests we make each year.” Many others have also supported this decision, such as Jeanette Hoffman, spokeswoman for New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy, who says "The decision makes our point exactly – that there is a sensible middle ground between criminalization and outright drug commercialization.” In a few months, we should see how this change will affect lawmakers and how they will approach legalization in the coming months.

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