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AG releases new guidance for marijuana offenses

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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaking at an Aug. 18 Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community meeting at Faith Baptist Church in Pleasantville.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaking at an Aug. 18 Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community meeting at Faith Baptist Church in Pleasantville. - ()

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released new guidance Wednesday regarding prosecutorial discretion for marijuana-related offenses in municipal court.

Municipal prosecutors are permitted to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis, as they would when prosecuting any other type of offense. They are not, however, permitted to adopt their own policies to decriminalize marijuana.

Grewal in July requested all municipal prosecutors pause marijuana-related prosecutions until Sept. 4 while his office consulted with a working group representing a broad spectrum of criminal justice stakeholders to develop statewide guidance.

According to the guidance, municipal prosecutors are not allowed to adopt a policy refusing to seek convictions for marijuana-related offenses.

Instead, the guidance states, prosecutors should exercise their discretion in marijuana-related cases “based on the particular facts and applicable law, and consistent with their ethical obligations.”

Based on their discretion, municipal prosecutors may seek to dismiss or amend charges, or lessen punishment based on consequences of the conviction.

A municipal prosecutor should consider lack of evidence to amend or dismiss a claim, and should also consider the impact of adverse collateral consequences of a conviction, such as future employment and professional licensing restrictions.

“The guidance that I am issuing today confirms that municipal prosecutors can responsibly exercise discretion to deal with minor marijuana possession offenses in a progressive, equitable manner while respecting the rule of law, including the authority of the Legislature and the courts,” said Grewal in a prepared statement.

“Today’s guidance on marijuana-related prosecutions is only one step toward improving the administration of justice in our municipal courts,” he said. “I look forward to addressing in the near future other, more fundamental issues affecting public confidence in our criminal justice system.”

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Gabrielle Saulsbery

Gabrielle Saulsbery

Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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