With 2016 behind us, many people are looking hopefully to the year ahead. This may certainly be true if you are an advocate for marijuana decriminalization and more lenient laws in states like New Jersey.

Several states now have laws that legalize or decriminalize marijuana, including California, Maine and Nevada where the substance will be (or already has been) legalized in 2017. While New Jersey is not on this list of states changing or relaxing marijuana laws to such a degree, there are some indications that the near future may look a little brighter for people who use this particular substance.

Some predictions, like those discussed in this Forbes article, forecast a more accepting future in areas like entertainment and sports. The growth of “craft marijuana” may be seen, and ongoing research to improve marijuana is anticipated.

But the reality today is that thousands of people in the U.S. will continue to be arrested and jailed for offenses stemming from marijuana use, sale and/or possession. Though the future may look bright for some, the fact remains that marijuana is still considered an illegal drug in many states and at the federal level. And even minor offenses can result in some serious penalties, from fines to incarceration. Should you find yourself facing allegations involving marijuana-related offenses, it will be wise to understand your rights and discuss defense strategies with an experienced attorney.

Marijuana use and distribution have long been divisive topics, with advocates and critics both fierce in their positions. However, there is undeniably a shift in cultural acceptance across the country, which will likely continue to shape and change the laws regarding marijuana in the future. We will certainly follow any changes that could affect residents right here in New Jersey.