New Jersey’s historic move to legalize marijuana has some lawmakers and police officials fuming over a provision prohibiting cops from notifying parents that their kids were caught with weed until the second offense.
A package of bills signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last week gave fine print to the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2020 ending the state’s cannabis prohibition.
But law enforcement officials balked at how lawmakers implemented legalization, calling attention in particular to a three-step process for dealing with people under the now-legal age of 21 who get caught with bud.
“As a parent, I am extremely upset – and, in fact, very angered – by these new laws,” Westfield Chief Christopher Battiloro said in a statement posted to his department’s Facebook page Saturday.
Under the new law, a first-time underage offender would get a written warning, and police are specifically prohibited from notifying their parents. A second offense would require a notification to parents if the person is under 18, and a third would trigger referrals for drug treatment services, as well as up to a $50 penalty or community service.
Critics of the new rules, including state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Sen. Mike Testa, both Republicans, said they also apply to minors caught possessing alcohol.
Some police officials said they often notify parents that their underage children were caught drinking or doing drugs as an alternative to pursuing charges.
“This police department has always sought the implementation of non-punitive measures for the majority of juvenile offenses including underage alcohol or marijuana possession or consumption,” Point Pleasant Chief Joseph A. Michigan said in a statement on his own department’s Facebook page.
“Formal charges have always been a last resort.”
The lawmakers said parents should be notified upon the first offense.
“(Teenagers will) use the written warning they get to roll their next joint, which they’ll be able to do because the law will prevent police from searching for their stash even if they catch the kids in a cloud of smoke,” Testa said last week.