NJ Top News 3/8 – NJ to Remove Ban on Police Telling Parents About Weed Use
Lawmakers are expected to move quickly to repeal a ban on police telling parents about underage weed and booze use.
The measure was included in enabling legislation that established New Jersey's recreational legal weed marketplace. Members of the Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses insisted on the ban as part of decriminalization legislation. It was, they said, a matter of social justice claiming police officers would stop and harass black and brown youth in greater numbers.
Parents, law enforcement, and drug addiction experts all expressed outrage at the ban. The New Jersey Police Benevolent Association called the legislation "treacherous" and warned officers not to get involved in any situation involving marijuana. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal warned police could face criminal charges if they violated the ban.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said he would support a repeal of the ban. Murphy never publicly supported the ban and had tried to include some penalties for underage drug use. He eventually signed the controversial decriminalization bill on Feb. 22 as part of a three-bill package creating the legal weed marketplace.
Repealing the ban is "a step in the right direction," Murphy now says. Murphy says he has spoken with Senate President Steve Sweeney and signaled the repeal would move quickly but also cautioned "there was a ways to go."
It is not clear when the bipartisan legislation will get a hearing and a vote. State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, indicated last week he was working on a bill. Gopal issued a statement saying, "It is still illegal for minors to possess or consume (marijuana). If a minor is caught with these substances, we want their parents to know about it right away."
Legislation was also being crafted by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union. Bramnick, Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, and Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlan, R-Monmouth, all urged quick action.
O'Scalan was also pushing for the removal of criminal liability for officers who violate new rules.
"We have to fix both the parental notification prohibition ... and the extraordinary low bar of criminal liability that invites decent cops to stumble over it. Fixing one without the other is lip service," he said.
It is unlikely Democrats will entertain changes beyond the repeal of the ban on parental notification. The decriminalization bills included a provision that eliminated the smell of marijuana or alcohol as "probable cause," to question a suspect or initiate a search of a vehicle. The NJPBA says that will "have dangerous consequences" for the public and the police.
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