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More than 500 active police chiefs want New Jersey lawmakers to prohibit all cops, as well as some first responders, from using cannabis while off-duty.
by Dessy Pavlova · May 31, 2022
New Jersey legalized the recreational use of cannabis on April 21, 2022, permitting not only adults in the general public to consume the plant and its derivatives but, notably, off-duty police officers as well. Now, pointing to safety concerns, some New Jersey legislators are introducing new bills to remove or modify the state’s regulations so that off-duty officers are forbidden to use cannabis.
More than 500 active police chiefs want New Jersey lawmakers to prohibit all cops, as well as some first responders, from using cannabis while off-duty. They cited a multitude of safety issues stemming from the time it takes the body to rid itself of traces of cannabis, nearly a month long, that would be difficult to manage. There is currently no cannabis breathalyzer test or an established limit for cannabis intoxication, complicating the issue for officers who might consume and then drive, let alone operate a firearm.
The State president Nick Scutari, who sponsored New Jersey’s legalization bill, opposes the exceptions now being introduced, arguing that any new prohibitions could create a slippery slope to other restrictions. One need not look too long or far to find other examples of legislators in other states peeling back new legalization efforts and hampering the push to decriminalize, de-stigmatize, and de-marginalize the plant and those who obtain it for personal use. Virginia lawmakers recently pushed a bill that would criminalize the possession of larger quantities of marijuana intended for personal use, putting legal home growers at risk.
New Jersey’s state attorney general Gurbir Grewal explicitly outlined the illegality of firing an officer for off-duty cannabis use, but some New Jersey mayors have already stated they will ignore the state’s laws and prosecute officers who use cannabis while not on the job. Newark’s City Council voted unanimously to urge the city’s mayor to follow suit and fire any cop who tests positive for cannabis.
Gov. Phil Murphy stated he is open to legislators tweaking the current law to allow police agencies in the state to apply their own codes of conduct pertaining to police officers’ cannabis use. This sets up a potential contentious battle between state legislators and city mayors, with top cops on one side, and sponsors of legalization with fewer restrictions on the other.
What do you think about New Jersey police officers getting high, off the job, or at all?