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Chimney smoke leads to big New Jersey marijuana bust

While some in the state are awaiting the openings of more medical marijuana dispensaries, New Jersey law enforcement stays vigilant about putting people in jail for crimes related to marijuana. The recent arrest of a "drug kingpin," as the attorney general calls him, proves how police and prosecutors still take marijuana in New Jersey extremely seriously.

A 38-year-old defendant charged with serious drug crimes pleaded guilty to the manufacturing and related charges before him. He's accused of leading a marijuana operation of ground-breaking proportions in New Jersey. Prosecutors allege that he had about $10 million worth of marijuana crops.

According to news reports, the police were led to the defendant and others involved in the drug ring when smoke was seen coming out of a home's chimney. The person inside the home was supposedly burning marijuana stems. That incident spurred the more thorough investigation into the New Jersey marijuana operation, and authorities were able to trace evidence to other grow houses and the man whom they call the "kingpin" of the drug business.

The defendant agreed to a plea deal that would cap his sentencing at 20 years. He will serve at least 10 years before even being considered for parole. Various others are also facing drug charges in connection with the marijuana operation, including the main defendant's girlfriend.

Though it might seem that the attitude regarding marijuana in New Jersey and the U.S. has softened, the law still puts people at risk of severe charges and sentencing if caught manufacturing, distributing or holding the drug.

Source: New Jersey Newsroom, "$10 Million Indoor Crop of Marijuana Uncovered by N.J. Police," April 16, 2013