🍺 Gov. Murphy rejects fines for underage drinking

🍺 Many shore towns have been dealing with rowdy teens drinking in public

🍺 Police will have greater power to confront underage alcohol and weed use

As shore towns still struggle to cut down on rowdy teen behavior during the summer months, Gov. Phil Murphy has rejected legislation that would have imposed a $50 dollar fine for underage alcohol usage.

The legislation was a bipartisan effort to empower police in local towns with greater authority to deal with bad behavior.

(Via stuffed_0live on TikTok /ogden1 on TikTok)
(Via stuffed_0live on TikTok /ogden1 on TikTok)

It was also intended to try and correct what many saw as problems in the 2021 legislation that legalized recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21.

Murphy sided with social justice advocates who pleaded for a veto on the grounds the fine would disproportionately harm individuals of color and low-income families.

In his veto message to the legislature, Murphy wrote, "Juveniles of color (would be) at risk for further involvement with the legal system because of non-payment. These consequences affect not only the juvenile but the entire family unit.”

Changes to policing

Murphy did go along with one key provision in the bill that law enforcement had been asking for. It largely shields police from criminal charges if they question underage individuals about possible alcohol or marijuana use.

Under the previous legislation, officers could have been subject to criminal charges for violating a teen's civil rights.

The new rules make it clear that charge will only apply if an officer is acting "with the purpose to intimidate or discriminate against the underage person or group of persons because of a protected characteristic."

attachment-Long Branch pop-up Singer

Without that clarification, many officers simply did not confront minors suspected of illegally using alcohol or weed.

Murphy acknowledged the "uncertainty" regarding the 2021 law's application and noted it had "chilled law enforcement officers from interacting with juveniles."

Police will also now have the authority to confiscate alcohol and weed from minors as well as issue written notifications to parents.

Shore towns have acted on their own

After the 2021 laws legalizing marijuana were passed, many shore towns were inundated with rowdy teens openly drinking and smoking weed in public and on the boardwalks.

It was a frustrated and angry Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra who unleashed a torrent of criticism against the Democratic controlled legislature and Gov. Murphy over what he believed was flawed legislation.

"They (the state) have screwed up our marijuana laws, they have screwed up our liquor laws, so that young kids feel like they can just walk down the street ripping shots and taking hits without any worries," Kanitra raged.

Mayor Paul Kanitra/Facebook
Mayor Paul Kanitra/Facebook

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian wrote on the city's website, "Enough is enough" and worried things were only getting worse.

In 2023, Gillian approved an ordinance that Ocean City that empowers local police to round up teens behaving badly and bring them to the police station. They would be held there until a parent or guardian comes to get them.

Most shore towns have passed strict juvenile curfews to try and curb drunken behavior.

It is now hoped those measures plus the ability of police to now intervene will help towns prevent and stop open and illegal use of booze and weed by underage residents and/or visitors.

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