A Few Marijuana Plants Remains A First-Degree Crime in New Jersey

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In January 2014, New Jersey State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari announced that he plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana. Senator Scutari is the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Municipal Prosecutor for Linden said, “Anybody that looks at the facts, that the war on marijuana has been a miserable failure.” However, you need to remember that marijuana is still illegal in New Jersey and you need to know that currently the growing of even a few marijuana plants can land you in extremely serious trouble.

In New Jersey, the law criminalizes the manufacture of controlled dangerous substances, including marijuana, in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4. This law says that anyone who knowingly maintains or operates any place used for the manufacture of drugs is guilty of a crime. This means any location that you use to prepare drugs, including marijuana. The law says that if you have used the location as few as two times, you would be maintaining the location for drug production.

Critically, the law applies to anyone who has raised marijuana in “an amount greater than five pounds or ten plants.” New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2 defines a plant as “an organism having leaves and a readily observable root formation, including, but not limited to, a cutting having roots, a rootball or root hairs.” This means that any marijuana plant with a root qualifies under this section and you could be in huge trouble for 11 small marijuana plants.

This is huge trouble. This charge is a first-degree crime, carrying a sentence of between 10 to 20 years to State Prison. In addition, the judge is required to impose a minimum term before you could even see parole. Finally, the judge can impose of a fine up to $750,000.

For example, two men were growing 16 marijuana plants in a Mercer County house when the heating lamp caused a fire. After the fire department put out the fire, the police located the plants. Having six plants more than ten, the men were charged with first degree crime and faced up to 20 years in prison.

If you are charged with maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss any questions or concerns about your case.

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