There are probably few laws that vary as widely from state to state as those regarding the use of marijuana. One state may forbid both medical and recreational marijuana while its neighboring states may have much more lax laws regarding both. Federal law still considers possession of the drug a crime, even for medicinal purposes.
Whether you advocate for the recreational use of marijuana or you have found medical benefits from its use, it is important to know the risks you take if you violate the law. Even though laws governing marijuana may be less severe than those governing other controlled substances, you may still face harsh penalties for illegal possession.
Marijuana still carries penalties
New Jersey has legalized the medical use of marijuana for those with a doctor's certification of a qualifying condition. If you are under a doctor's care, you may register with the Department of Health for authorization to carry up to two ounces of marijuana. However, if you are not registered for medical marijuana use, two ounces in your possession can mean serious legal trouble. Some of the penalties you may face for a conviction include the following:
- Disorderly person charge on your criminal record
- Mandatory six months in jail
- Fine of $1,000
- Additional fines if you are arrested inside a school zone
- Felony charges if you possess more than 50 grams at the time of your arrest
A felony charge puts you at risk of a sentence as long as 18 months in jail and fines reaching $25,000. If police arrest you for selling marijuana, the penalties are even steeper. The sale of just an ounce of pot can mean a prison sentence of five years and a $25,000 fine if convicted. You also risk the consequences of a drug conviction on your record, including:
- Loss of your driver's license
- Limitations on your career options
- Ineligibility for federal financial aid, some scholarships and other educational opportunities
- Challenges obtaining a mortgage or lease
- International travel restrictions
Marijuana possession is among the most common offenses for which police make arrests. Because so many states are relaxing their stances on the use of the drug, you may be tempted to shrug off a possession charge. However, a conviction for drug possession on your record can have consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life. It is best not to face even a simple possession charge without the advice of a legal advocate.