In a move that comports with New Jersey’s recent legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, the state’s Attorney General directed law enforcement agencies to stop arrests for minor marijuana offenses and for prosecutors to immediately dismiss all such pending criminal charges. The policy change comes at a time when New Jersey is preparing a framework for the regulation of the legal cannabis industry.
In November of last year, New Jersey residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has signed a number of bills into law to make the change official. Notably, one of the new laws decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, and another eliminated fines and arrests for those under the age of 21 who are caught with weed. Both laws signal a change with respect to how law enforcement can treat individuals found to possess the drug.
Smell Of Marijuana No Longer Probable Cause
The laws have also altered what law enforcement can use to establish probable cause, or as reason to suspect that someone may be committing a crime. In the past, when marijuana was illegal, it was lawful for police to stop, question, and possibly search a person just based on the smell of weed. Because it is now legal to consume the drug recreationally, most attorneys argue that police can no longer pull over a driver or stop a person on the street just because the officer smells marijuana. Under the new law, when an officer smells marijuana coming from a vehicle or a person, they must assume that the pot is being used in a legal way unless there is evidence that would suggest otherwise.