After years of debate and controversy, marijuana became legal in New Jersey in February 2021. While these law changes have profound effects all around the State, none may be bigger than what police are now allowed and not allowed to do when they encounter marijuana.
Prior to marijuana being legal, if the police conducted a motor vehicle stop and smelled marijuana, burnt or raw, they had the right to take everyone out of the vehicle, search everyone, and search the car. Anything illegal found inside the car or on any person, including marijuana, other controlled dangerous substances, or even a firearm, would be seized and everyone in the car would be charged accordingly. Under the law, the smell of marijuana created “reasonable suspicion” that there was illegal activity going on or illegal contraband in the car.
The legalization of marijuana changed these laws. Under the new law, the smell of marijuana by itself, burnt or raw, does not give police reasonable suspicion to search a person or vehicle. Simply put, if the cops pull a vehicle over and smell marijuana coming from the vehicle, they no longer have the right to pull everyone out of the car and conduct of the car. The same goes for a pedestrian walking on the street. If a police officer smells marijuana, they do not have the right to detain or search that person solely based on the smell of marijuana.
If, however, police have probable cause that the driver of a vehicle is under the influence of marijuana or any other substance, they do have the right to arrest you and search the vehicle.
Another major change in New Jersey's new marijuana laws relate to what the police are allowed to do when they encounter a person possessing or distributing marijuana. Police are no longer allowed to arrest an adult in possession of marijuana, no matter the amount, or arrest an adult for distributing up to 1 ounce of marijuana. While the police may have a right to issue a summons complaint for your conduct, they no longer have the right to arrest you, bring you to the station, or take your fingerprints. If any fingerprinting is necessary, it will take place at your first court appearance.
If you are arrested for any drug related offense, contact the Law Offices of Alex Cirocco immediately. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Cirocco knows how to find weaknesses in the prosecution's case and get you the best possible results. Our office is up to date on all law changes and will fight vigorously on your behalf if the police violated your rights.