In New Jersey, Ed Forchion, also known as the “Weedman” has been advocating for the legalization of marijuana for years now. As a longtime marijuana activist, Forchion has been arrested numerous times over the years and served prison sentences for marijuana possession and even smoking a joint publicly at the Liberty Bell, in the Statehouse and in front of the Burlington County Courthouse.
Recently Forchion took his advocacy to another level by posting a 12-page legal motion that he said can be used by anyone arrested for possession. Forchion said that 87 people had downloaded the brief since he uploaded it, with more than 800 people viewing the document. As more people download, amend and file his motion, he hopes a case will eventually get to the Appellate Division and that will lead the laws to be changed.
Marijuana possession is a criminal offense in New Jersey regardless of how much marijuana a person has in their possession and what they intend to do with it. Possession of amounts less than 50 grams or being under the influence of marijuana, are “disorderly persons” offenses (misdemeanors) and can result in six months of jail time and a maximum fine of $1000.
All other marijuana-related crimes are felonies and can lead to jail time of 18 months, $25,000 in fines and loss of one’s driver’s license. The State of New Jersey bans the sale, manufacture and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Offenders must complete 100 hours of community service if they were under the influence or possessed marijuana near a school (1,000 feet or less away.)
In 1997, former Gov. Christine Whitman signed into law a new set of drug classifications which labeled marijuana as a “schedule 1” drug, which meant marijuana had “no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
On Jan. 18, 2010 former governor Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate use Medical Marijuana Act into law, which allows severely ill patients to get medical marijuana prescriptions filled at one of six-state run centers. Patients are limited to 2 ounces of marijuana per month, cannot use it in public, and cannot grow it themselves. It can only be prescribed for diseases on a list approved by the legislature such as AIDS and cancer. As of now, only the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair has opened. The Compassionate Care Foundation is scheduled to open a facility in Egg Harbor Township in September.
Note that despite the legality of medical marijuana, possession of marijuana is still illegal under Federal law. To date the Feds have primarily targeted growers and sellers of marijuana so it is unlikely that possession of a small amount for medical use will lead to Federal prosecution.
In some cases, offenders may be able to enter a rehabilitation program instead of going to jail. Up to 90 of the 180 required days in jail can be spent in a rehab program after a third offense for driving under the influence of drugs. Drugged driving charges can also be thrown out if the offender is forced to take a drug test, as drug tests must be submitted voluntarily.