New Jersey’s Governor-Elect Phil Murphy Plans to Make the Legalization of Marijuana a Top Priority for 2018

Federal and State Marijuana Laws and gavel.

As we have previously discussed here on the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog, New Jersey is not part of the list of states where marijuana is legal. However, since winning the November 7 election, Governor-elect Phil Murphy has made it clear that legalizing marijuana will be a top priority. Throughout his campaign, Murphy touted his support for making marijuana available for recreational use for people 21 and older. Early on, he made his support well-known that he would sign a legalization bill when it arrived on his desk. Murphy has indicated that the legalization is needed to make the criminal justice system more fair. Experts also estimate that it will bring more than $300 million a year in tax revenue, which Murphy plans to use to boost spending on education, transportation, and public-worker pensions.

When asked when New Jersey might see this significant change, Murphy stated “[a]s soon as we can get there. We want to get this ball rolling. This is a 2018 priority.” Senate President Steve Sweeney has indicated that he would like to get a bill passed within Murphy’s first 100 days as Governor. Phil Murphy will officially begin his term as Governor on January 16, 2018.

What this May Mean for Marijuana-Related DUI Arrests

Even though New Jersey may be looking to legalize marijuana’s use and possession, it is important to remember that it is, and will continue to be, illegal to drive under the effects of marijuana or THC, the active ingredient. Even if marijuana becomes legal, it can still impair your ability to drive and you will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if you are found to be driving while intoxicated (DWI) on marijuana, similar to how you can be charged for driving under the influence of other legal substances like prescription medications or alcohol.

If New Jersey does soon fully legalize use of marijuana, some indicate that there a glaring problem for which there is currently no solution. That is, that there is no reliable, efficient field test for driving while high on marijuana. Unlike alcohol, marijuana metabolizes much differently than alcohol. Yes, there are blood tests, urine tests and oral swabs that can determine if someone has marijuana in their system, but it’s much harder, and much costlier, to determine if it got there 1 hour ago or over a week ago.

Moreover, as an experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney knows, even these tests can be unreliable. Even with a blood or urine test, an expert is typically required to accurately determine the timing. Due to the fact that the State does not have the resources to hire an expert for every case, instead they have to rely upon the observations of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), police officers trained to spot signs of driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana. Importantly, those officers’ determinations are rightfully open to scrutiny.

Unfortunately, in Colorado, weed-related traffic deaths jumped by 48 percent after full legalization there in 2014. This means that New Jersey will wary of the potential dangers of legalizing marijuana and will be on high-alert for anyone driving while under the influence of THC. With the law likely to change in New Jersey soon, it is important to understand what is and what is not legal under the law. For now, it is important to remember that recreational use of marijuana is still a crime and driving under the influence of marijuana is taken very seriously by our criminal justice system.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Defend You if You Are Charged with Driving Under the Influence of THC

If you or someone you know is charged for any crime relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can explain what rights you have in your specific situation. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer can also make sure you get the best result possible and can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.