As the sentiment grows to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, a question arises - what should be done with those who were already convicted of marijuana crimes if pot were to become legal for recreational purposes? 

prison cell
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As Joan Quigley notes in her article on, there are about 40,000 people convicted of crimes involving marijuana that have been sentenced to terms ranging from a few months to life. Rolling Stone estimates that in the United States, as many as 750,000 people a year are convicted of marijuana crimes. They also report anti-marijuana law enforcement has slacked off somewhat in recent years, but possession with intent to distribute is still prosecuted in every state, and in New Jersey.

In New Jersey, possession of 50 grams or less is considered a misdemeanor. Convicted persons can to spend up to six months in jail, and and may have to pay as much as $1,000 in fines.  Conviction brings a permanent criminal record. There are stiffer penalties for possession of larger amounts, or intent to distribute, use within a school zone, use during commission of another crime, and so on.

To look for a precedent, I researched what has happened to those who were convicted of alcohol related crimes when prohibition ended.

I found that the best way to handle this would be a case by case basis where they look into a criminal's history, and see if the person committed any other crimes, and the reasons for each. If any crime they have committed is still against the law, it should be held against them. I also think no matter what, you will still have to ask for a pardon - if what you were convicted of is now totally legal, it should be granted.

What do you think? Should those convicted of marijuana crimes get off if it is legalized?

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