Signaling a change in state policy dating back over 50 years, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal authorized municipal prosecutors to consider social justice grounds as a basis for exercising discretion to amend or dismiss possessory marijuana cases.
“To the extent permitted by law, a municipal prosecutor should consider the impact of adverse collateral consequences of a conviction based on the specific circumstances or factors presented by the defendant or elicited by the court,” announced Attorney General Grewal.
Some of the factors prosecutors can consider are the age and prior record of the defendant; adverse employment or military enlistment consequences; adverse educational, housing, immigration or family consequences; as well as the nature and circumstances of the offense and the arrest.
“The guidance provided remains in effect pending the New Jersey legislature’s consideration of legalizing recreational marijuana this Fall,” noted Sean F. Dalton, Esquire of the Cooper Levenson law firm. “If possessory amounts of marijuana is legalized, the next question is whether the legislature will fast track the expungement of criminal records for those convicted prior to the effective date of this new law.”
The New Jersey Attorney General’s decision is not binding on federal law enforcement officials which still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal drug under federal law.