What You Should Know About Drug Possession in New Jersey

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drug possession new jersey nj

In an effort to reduce prison populations, the Garden State has begun decriminalizing possession of certain illegal substances, specifically those involving marijuana and the ingredients thereof. However, you should know that, despite changing laws and attitudes, New Jersey prosecutors will still aggressively pursue convictions for these and other drug-related offenses. If you face a drug possession charge and would like more information, please read on, then contact a Mercer County drug crime lawyer today.

What constitutes drug possession in New Jersey?

To commit the offense of “drug possession,” one must be in possession of a controlled substance. A controlled substance is a drug or other substance that the government tightly controls because the substance may be abused or cause addiction. In spite of all the liberalization in state and federal drug enforcement policy, the government considers the following items as controlled substances:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Alprazolam
  • Ecstasy
  • Ketamine
  • Heroin

The first entry on the above list may surprise you since recreational marijuana use was legalized on April 21, 2022, but marijuana remains a Schedule I drug in the Garden State. Even if you have a prescription or valid reason for partaking in marijuana, you are not allowed to possess large quantities or to sell it unless you operate a dispensary that received official clearance from the state.

What are the penalties for drug possession in New Jersey?

The penalties for drug possession will depend on the type of controlled substance and the quantity you allegedly possessed. Those factors will determine the degree of the crime, which breaks down as follows:


  • 5 ounces or more – 1st Degree Crime
  • ½ ounce or more – 2nd Degree Crime
  • Less than ½ ounce – 3rd Degree Crime


  • 5 ounces or more – 1st Degree Crime
  • ½ ounce or more – 2nd Degree Crime
  • Less than ½ ounce – 3rd Degree Crime


  • 100 milligrams or more – 1st Degree Crime
  • Less than 100 milligrams – 2nd Degree Crime


  • 10 grams or more – 1st Degree Crime
  • Less than 10 grams – 2nd Degree Crime

By this metric, you could face anywhere between three and twenty years in prison. If the prosecution charges you with possession with intent to distribute, you may face even more time behind bars and steeper fines. A conviction for any of these offenses may upend the rest of your life.

Given the severity of these consequences, you should strongly consider reaching out to a skilled Mercer County criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case, weigh your options and implement a defense. Attitudes regarding illegal drugs may be changing, but law enforcement’s views have not. Please do not hesitate to give our firm a call today.


If you face a criminal matter, contact The Law Office of Douglas Herring to schedule your initial consultation.

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