Bipartisan support is gathering to end the provision in the cannabis bills that removed parental notification for a first offense underage cannabis possession.
“While New Jersey has made recreational marijuana legal in the state of New Jersey, it is still illegal for minors to possess or consume it. If a minor is caught with these substances, we want their parents to know about it right away,” NJ Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D- Monmouth), and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D- Monmouth) said in a joint statement.
Cannabis reform was delayed several times over what should be done with underage individuals caught with cannabis possession. Civil rights groups and minority legislators were eager to address the issue of police brutality and petty convictions that often lead to a life of crime for those with few other options.
The clean-up- bill, crafted after weeks of debate, prohibits police from notifying parents when a minor is caught with cannabis possession or using alcohol when it’s a first-time offense. The new law also makes it easier for a law enforcement officer to be charged with depriving an underage individual of their rights.
Gopal is introducing the cannabis possession measure in the NJ Senate with Senators Joe Lagan (D-Bergen) and Dawn Addiego (D-Burlington), while Houghtaling and Downey are introducing it in the Assembly. The measure has not yet been introduced, so it does not have a bill number nor text to analyze.
Assemblyman Herb Conway (D-Burlington) is also interested in reimposing parental notification for underage cannabis possession. Conway is a member of the Legislative Black Caucus and blamed by long-time advocates for removing homegrow from New Jersey’s medical cannabis law in 2009.
Bipartisan Underage Cannabis Possession Notification Support
Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) and Senator Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris) also want to fix what they perceive as problems with the new cannabis laws. They plan to introduce a bill to repeal a new law prohibiting law enforcement from notifying parents if their child is caught possessing alcohol or cannabis.
Assembly Minority Leader John Bramnick (R-Union) is also strongly in favor of an underage cannabis possession parental notification bill.
O’Scanlon and Bucco also want to introduce legislation to also restore liability protections for the police during a cannabis-related interaction with underage youths that were in place to address police brutality.
“The new marijuana law that was recently passed is one of the most unworkable and counter-productive pieces of legislation that I have ever seen,” said O’Scanlon.
A lot of time was likely spent trying to convince him to vote for adult-use legalization legislation. O’Scanlon was a proponent of the Jake Honig Act medical cannabis law and voted for decriminalization. Both O’Scanlon and Gopal recently became sponsors of a medical homegrow bill.
“This is an attack on law enforcement that places the police in a position if they make even the slightest mistake when dealing with under-age possession charges that they are a third-degree felon,” O’Scanlon said.
“This is another example of Democrat ideology that the state knows what’s best for our families, usurping the role of parents in the lives of their children,” said Bucco. “This new law is a direct attack on family values, further eroding the influence of mom or dad in raising their children.
Bucco recently took the Senate seat after his father of the same first name died. He previously an Assemblyman. Unlike O’Scanlon, he was never considered to be in favor of certain cannabis reforms.
“For generations, a call from the police station advising that your child was drinking with friends or involved with drugs was more effective than any arrest or court appearance. It should be the duty and responsibility of law enforcement to let parents know when kids are breaking the law, especially when it involves a behavior that left unchecked could lead to more serious issues down the road,” said Bucco.