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Marijuana - real or synthetic?
Where is the law heading?
What does it mean for you?

New Jersey's drug laws are being pulled in two different directions simultaneously. At the same time that the campaign to decriminalize relatively small amounts of marijuana is gaining steam, the regulation of synthetic forms of marijuana has never been more stringent. What's happening here?

The Decriminalization of Marijuana.

Decriminalization of marijuana received a boost on May 21, 2012 when the Assembly Judiciary Committee gave bipartisan support to a bill that would make possession of under a half ounce of marijuana (about 27 to 30 joints) a civil offense, with penalties of a $150 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second, and $500 for third and subsequent offenses. The committee's vote is an important step in moving the bill through the legislature. The measure is scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly in June and a similar bill awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What will it mean if this bill passes both houses-assuming that the Governor is willing to sign it into law? It doesn't mean a free ride for marijuana users. Remember, decriminalization is not the same as legalization. There will still be arrests and penalties-but fines are a long way from the jail sentences routinely imposed in this state for many years.

Why the sudden change? Several reasons: Recent polling shows that the decriminalization movement is supported by the majority of New Jersey residents. Our state has seen the legalization of medical marijuana and the first clinics are in the process of opening to dispense it. The governor has come out in support of drug treatment rather than prosecution and jail time.

Meanwhile, even before marijuana decriminalization is a reality, this office is becoming more optimistic that it can secure favorable deals for defendants facing prosecution on marijuana charges. So, if you find yourself or someone you know arrested for marijuana possession, possession with intent to distribute or distribution of marijuana come see us. The outlook has never been brighter.

"Fake Weed" Offenses are on the Upswing.

The story on synthetic marijuana or "fake weed" offenses is very different. On February 28, 2012, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs issued an order placing all synthetic cannabinoids in Schedule I of the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act for the next 270 days. That's the same schedule as heroin and LSD. The order is specifically designed to include items sold under the names of Spice, K2, Blaze, and Red Dawn X, even if they carry labels saying that they are not for human consumption, and regardless of whether they are sold as incense, potpourri or herbal mixtures. This put New Jersey in accord with 37 other states that have criminalized possession of "fake pot."

About a week after the Director acted, an Assemblyman introduced a bill that would permanently place synthetic marijuana in Schedule I.

Why has this happened? Emergency rooms across the country have reported that synthetic marijuana has caused alarming side-effects including convulsions, dangerously elevated heart rates and blood pressure, seizures, disorientation, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and complete breaks from reality. Some people have engaged in self-mutilation and attempted suicide, or become so violent they have had to be strapped down and sedated.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation out there. People have been led to believe that synthetic marijuana is perfectly legal. Some websites laugh at the authorities for being too dumb to realize what is happening in the world of drug use. But the truth is that the authorities have noticed-and the possession of synthetic marijuana or "fake weed" is now a serious offense.

We don't judge. We defend. If you have been charged with a marijuana offense or with a synthetic or "fake weed" offense (including Spice, K2, Blaze, Red Dawn X, Brain-Freeze, etc.) the experienced drug defense attorneys at Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC would welcome your inquiries. We have helped many people through the procedure and if you contact us immediately, an experienced criminal defense lawyer from our office will do their best to ensure that your case is handled properly and promptly. To contact a criminal defense attorney at Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC, call (201) 488-7707 or send us an email.

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