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Drug Possession Laws

Many states are decriminalizing or lowering penalties for some substances, like cannabis, but drug possession laws vary according to the state.

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New Jersey has strict drug possession laws for recreational marijuana, prescription drugs, and other substances. There are exceptions in the state for medical marijuana.


Exceptions to New Jersey’s Drug Possession Laws

While New Jersey still penalizes possession of most drugs, both recreational and prescription up to a certain amount, there are a few legal exceptions to this rule that are important to know. These involve medical professionals.

Anyone who works in pharmaceutical manufacturing and the dispensation of prescription drugs must have appropriate licenses and registrations with the state of New Jersey, except for certain individuals who have special permissions under P.L.1970, c.226 (C.24:21-1 et seq.). This includes:

  • An agent or employee of a specific manufacturer, distributor, or dispenser of a controlled dangerous substance, like opioid painkillers, if that is part of the regular course of their job.
  • A common carrier or warehouseman, or an employee of these individuals, who has to be in possession of substances as part of their work.
  • The ultimate user of a controlled substance in Schedule V who can have that much as part of a lawful medical order.
  • Law enforcement as part of their job, which requires them to possess a controlled dangerous substance.
  • Temporary or incidental possession by employees or agents of law enforcement, or anyone who is in possession for official duties.

For example, veterinarians and veterinary technicians can have larger amounts of sodium phenobarbital with them in certain situations because this is one of the chemicals used in euthanasia. However, they legally must report how much they purchase and carry to the humane society or animal control facility, so this amount can be tracked.

People in possession of drugs they are abusing for recreational reasons can face serious legal penalties, including fines and jail time. The only exceptions involve people who work in pharmaceutical manufacturing or prescribing, either for people or animals. Even in these cases, the reasons for possessing substances are carefully monitored.

New Jersey’s Drug Possession Laws

There are specific statutes in New Jersey that govern drug possession.

  • The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C § 35-10 (possession, in general): As a law generally outlawing possession of drugs, 2C § 35-10 states that no person can knowingly or purposefully obtain or possess a controlled, dangerous substance as determined by federal and state law, or a controlled substance analog unless the drug was obtained from a medical professional, like prescription opioid painkillers. Possessing more than prescribed or having multiple prescriptions overlapping is a violation of this law.Drugs that fall under this law include those scheduled under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) like Schedule I drugs (LSD, heroin), Schedule II (oxycodone, fentanyl), Schedule III (ketamine, steroids), Schedule IV (Xanax, Ambien), and anything scheduled specifically by the state of New Jersey. Possession of any of these substances without a prescription can lead to a third-degree crime charge, which can include fines of $35,000.

    Schedule V drugs are also illegal to possess without a prescription. In New Jersey, this can lead to conviction on fourth-degree charges and up to $15,000 in fines.

    People found in possession of 50 grams or more of marijuana face conviction on fourth-degree charges and a $25,000 fine. Possession of less than 50 grams is considered a disorderly person.

    No drug can be within 1,000 feet of a school property or school bus.

  • 2C § 36-2 (paraphernalia): People who intend to abuse drugs for nonmedical reasons may have specific paraphernalia on their person. They may have drug paraphernalia without having an intoxicating substance on them. This section of the law prohibits possession of any substance abuse paraphernalia, like pipes or straws, which can be used to convert, make, produce, grow, repack, store, or otherwise abuse intoxicating substances.
  • Food and Drugs 24 § 6I-1 (medical marijuana): This law changes some of the previous laws involving marijuana possession due to the potential for a person to have a prescription or a card with a medical marijuana dispensary. However, much medical marijuana is low in tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) and higher in cannabidiol (CBD), so methods of consuming medical marijuana may appear different than recreational abuse.

Third-degree crimes are felonies that may result in 3 to 5 years in prison, on top of the fine. Fourth-degree crimes may lead to a few months to 18 months in prison, on top of the fine. A disorderly person may be put in jail for up to 6 months.

Although these laws may seem harsh, New Jersey does encourage substance offenders to pursue detox and rehabilitation programs, especially if this is the first charge they face. This reduces or defers sentences, and it helps people who may struggle with addiction to get the help they need to overcome the condition.

Addiction is not a matter of willpower. It is a medical condition that requires evidence-based treatment. The state of New Jersey more often encourages this track than spending time in jail.

They have various programs in place to aid those struggling with substance abuse. These initiatives work to reduce recidivism rates by helping those who have committed drug crimes achieve lasting recovery rather than furthering a cycle of addiction and incarceration.

References

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Registry Homepage! State of New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program.

New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Law. (February 2019). Department of Law and Public Safety.

Drug Scheduling and Penalties. Campus Drug Prevention.gov.

New Jersey Drug Possession Laws. FindLaw, for Legal Professionals.

New Jersey Statutes Title 2C. The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C § 35-10. FindLaw, for Legal Professionals.

New Jersey Statutes Title 2C. The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C § 36-2. FindLaw, for Legal Professionals.

New Jersey Statutes Title 24. Food and Drugs 24 § 6I-1. FindLaw, for Legal Professionals.

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