Can civil rights and religious freedom arguments succeed when appealing a marijuana conviction?
After his arrest and conviction on a number of charges relating to the sale of marijuana, lawyers for the “NJ Weedman” hoped their appeal would transform their case into an important argument over constitutional rights. The United States Supreme Court, however, has declined to review the Burlington, New Jersey man’s conviction.
Arrests on Thirteen Drug Counts
The defendant had been charged with numerous counts of marijuana possession and distribution, as well as having “fortified premises,” owning drug paraphernalia, and maintaining a “narcotics nuisance.” His conviction was the culmination of a long investigation of his Trenton restaurant and the Rastafarian Temple he ran next door.
Appeal of Conviction Sought to Raise Civil Liberties Issues
Counsel for NJ Weedman raised a number of issues on appeal. Thinking that the time was right for a marijuana legalization case, they made arguments based on:
- Marijuana laws’ discriminatory impact on African-Americans.
- Marijuana’s importance to Rastafarian religious sacraments
- Justifications for medical marijuana
Unfortunately for the appellant, the Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court will not be hearing arguments or ruling on the case and the defendant’s conviction will stand.
Regardless of how timely or compelling an appeal may seem, the odds of any case being accepted by the Supreme Court are slim. The court receives as many as 10,000 petitions for certiorari every term and agrees to take only 80 to 100 cases.
Other Avenues for Appeal
While the New Jersey Court of Appeals had already upheld the defendant’s conviction in Burlington County, there may be other post-conviction strategies available at the state level. NJ Weedman’s defense lawyers may seek “post-conviction relief,” an alternative form of appeal.
If you have been arrested or convicted, experienced criminal defense counsel can advise you on the best strategies for trial and the chances for a successful appeal of a conviction. Your defense attorney can also try to mitigate the harshness of any jail sentence or other punishment you may face.