Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) – (Part 4)

by | Feb 11, 2016 | Blog, Criminal Law, News

To apply Guideline 3(i) and the long out-dated narcotics scheduling of marijuana under these circumstances (mentioned in part 3 of this blog) would lead to an absurd result. The narcotics schedules were published in 1970. See N.J.S.A 24:21-1 et seq. In 1972, a congressionally created commission called the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, whose members were appointed by then President Richard Nixon, completed one of the most comprehensive reviews ever undertaken regarding marijuana and public policy. Their report, “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” proclaimed that “from what is now known about the effects of marijuana, its use at the present level does not constitute a major threat to public health,” and recommended Congress and state legislatures decriminalize the use and casual distribution of marijuana for personal use (emphasis added). See

Thus, applying the rebuttable presumption against PTI admission for a fourth degree marijuana distribution (or possession with the intent to distribute) would create a barrier to admission where no  barrier exists for the more serious third and fourth degree distribution of the following schedule III, IV, and V narcotics: anabolic steroids, barbiturates, buprenorphine, dihydrocodeine, ketamine, GHB, marinol, Benzphetamine, lysergic acid amide, benzodiazepines, phenobarbital, opiod analgesics, and Tramadol, among others. See N.J.S.A 24:21-1 et seq. Since courts should avoid legal interpretations that lead to absurd or unreasonable results, PTI Guideline 3(i) should not apply to fourth degree marijuana distribution. See State v. Meyer, 192 N.J. 421, 436 (2007). Note that an additional level of absurdity is present with regard to a presumption against PTI admission that applies to natural marijuana, but not to synthetic marijuana (marinol).

Additionally, Guideline 3(i) should be relaxed when the case does not involve the manner of predatory “drug distribution” that justifies a rebuttable presumption against admission. Such is the case with the majority of drug distribution cases.

“Drug distribution” has an overly broad definition under our law. The definition covers conduct ranging from a predator that sells lethal drugs to other dealers or addicts and thereby profits from human misery while personally abstaining from drug use. On the other end of the “drug distribution” spectrum are two friends who occasionally share their small, personal supplies of marijuana with each other, depending on who happens to be in possession on a given day. The facts underlying most cases are consistent with the latter, far more benign scenario. The only recognized exception to drug distribution under a “sharing” theory is an extremely narrow one. It only applies when two people arrive at a supplier’s location together, commingle their money in exchange for a quantity drugs, and take joint possession of the drug at the exact same time with the intent to consume the drug together. See State v. Morrison, 188 N.J. 2 (2006).