While Pennsylvania will legalize medical marijuana, it will only be available in oil based forms as opposed to New Jersey where it will be legally available in all forms and with no qualifying medical condition.

Alfonso Gambone
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A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer representing accused persons throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

With the recent election of Phil Murphy as New Jersey’s next governor, it appears that the Garden State will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use sometime in 2018. This means that anyone over the age of 21 will be able to purchase marijuana, in all forms, without committing a crime, specifically Simple Possession or Possession with Intent to Deliver this controlled substance, which is a felony in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana vs. New Jersey Marijuana  

While Pennsylvania has yet to legalize this drug, it has taken steps to make medical marijuana available for certain individuals with qualifying illnesses or conditions. I encourage you to read my previous article on Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program for details regarding it. It’s important to keep in mind that, while Pennsylvania will legalize medical marijuana, the drug will only be available in oil based forms as opposed to New Jersey where it will be legally available in all forms and there is no requirement of a qualifying medical condition.

Marijuana will not only be legal in the Garden State but less expensive without the additional requirements pertaining to a qualifying illness of Pennsylvania. While New Jersey will legalize the drug, it is important to understand that a Pennsylvania resident can’t simply cross the river, purchase marijuana, and return into the Commonwealth with it. Remember that Pennsylvania still makes Possession and obviously Possession with the Intent to Deliver (PWID) this drug a crime, punishable as a misdemeanor offense (Possession) and/or a felony offense (Possession w/Intent to Deliver or Distribute). In addition a person can also be charged with Conspiracy to sell this drug if it is found in their possession and the prosecution can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that they intended to assist in the sale of distribution of it.

Possession vs. Possession With Intent to Deliver Marijuana

I encourage you to read my articles on the difference between Possession and Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) to understand more about the differences in these charges. Remember that PWID isn’t based on weight but rather the circumstantial evidence and/or direct evidence surrounding the actual arrest. This means the prosecution doesn’t need to establish a specific weight, only that the person was intending to sell it or distribute it.

The intent to sell can be established through observed transactions or evidence to indicate possible sales, such as scales, baggies, and other drug paraphernalia used for distribution. While some attorneys have commented on New Jersey’s legalization and its effect on Pennsylvania, these attorneys clearly do not practice criminal defense and have no understanding of the harms of traveling into the Garden State and making a marijuana purchase. Despite neighboring states, Pennsylvania can and will prosecute a person for felony offenses if they are found in possession of either a large quantity of the drug or circumstantial evidence of an intent to sell or distribute the drug.

Possible Defenses to Possession for Marijuana Charges

The New Jersey law isn’t a defense and a person should seriously consider the harmful effects of an arrest on long term employment prospects or even educational opportunities. Despite Pennsylvania’s relaxation of marijuana’s use, it has taken a much different approach with regards to legalization and there are no current efforts to move into the direction that New Jersey has taken along with other states like Colorado.

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