Legal marijuana in New Jersey may just be a matter of time

New Jersey lawmakers say that legalizing marijuana in the state is simply a matter of when.

Unlike in Colorado and a handful of other states, recreational marijuana remains illegal in New Jersey under state law. However, according to NJ Advance Media, many lawmakers believe that legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the Garden State will be inevitable within the next couple years. Although current legislative efforts to relax the state's drug laws are likely to be shot down with a veto, many legal experts are increasingly confident that New Jersey will soon follow the lead of other states and reform its marijuana laws.

Visit to Colorado

The comments about legalizing marijuana use were made following a trip that a group of New Jersey lawmakers recently made to Colorado. The purpose of the trip was to see how the Rocky Mountain State had managed its own move toward legalizing the recreational use of marijuana since voters approved a constitutional amendment there in 2013.

Some lawmakers noted that Colorado has experienced significant benefits from the move. For example, arrests for drug possession have dropped in the state by around 80 percent. Meanwhile, some struggling towns have found a measure of rejuvenation by investing in the booming industry. The State of Colorado also benefits directly through a tax that added $135 million to the state's coffers last year alone.

Legalization proposed

Many of the lawmakers on the trip expected New Jersey to legalize recreational marijuana within the next couple of years, most likely in 2018 when the election of a new governor may decrease the likelihood of any legalization effort being vetoed. The current governor has vowed to veto any effort to legalize the drug. It is important to keep in mind that while Colorado and other states have legalized marijuana, federal law - which supersedes state law - still prohibits the drug.

Despite the fact that legalization here probably will not happen until 2018, one state lawmaker has nonetheless already introduced a bill allowing recreational marijuana use. As the Daily Record reports, the bill, A4193, would fully legalize marijuana and expunge criminal convictions related to its use. Instead, if the bill passed the drug would be treated similarly to tobacco, allowing the state to tax it while prohibiting its sale to minors. While the bill may provide inspiration to future legalization efforts, it seems unlikely to make it into law during the current legislative session.

Charged with a drug crime?

While support for changing New Jersey's drug laws is growing, for the time being marijuana use remains illegal in the state. As such, anybody who has been charged with a drug crime, whether related to marijuana or another substance, should get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what rights they have and help them fight for an outcome that best mitigates the impact of a drugs-related charge.