New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin’s belief stated in a memo that legal adult-use cannabis consumption by cops when off duty is permissible continues to gain opposition from local and legislative leaders.
“I share concerns about how legal cannabis impacts the role of police in our State,” Platkin said. “New Jersey’s law legalizing and regulating cannabis is clear, and we are obligated to comply. I welcome conversations on how best to protect public safety. “Efforts by local governments to subject officers to additional requirements in the interim, however, may present employment law issues that we anticipate will be handled between those governments and officers in the appropriate course.”
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, with the support of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, has said come out against letting sheriff’s deputies consume. They are merely the latest to announce their opposition.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, while supporting an expansive local market, has threatened to fire any officer who consumes cannabis off duty. Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis has also said he would do the same, along with the Mayors of Kearney and Weehawken in Hudson County.
“You should not risk your job, or at the very least a long-term suspension,” New Jersey Police union President Pat Colligan said in a letter.
Banning Cannabis Consumption by Cops
NJ Senate Budget Committee Chair Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), who previously wanted to ensure restrictions on consumption by those in other highly regulated professions, has endorsed the idea. Sarlo is also the Mayor of Wood-Ridge and is enforcing a ban on cops consuming cannabis there.
South Jersey Democratic legislators, including Greenwald, medical cannabis homegrow sponsor Tory Singleton, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Jim Beach, Carol Murphy, Pamela Lampitt, Bill, Moen, and Paul Moriarty, sent a letter to Platkin seeking clarification on his memo.
“One of the essential job functions of a police officer is to lawfully possess and use a firearm and ammunition, and federal law prohibits a person from using marijuana (legal or otherwise) and possessing a firearm, then police officers in New Jersey should not be permitted to consume legal cannabis products whether they are on- or off-duty,” the letter said. “Could you please explain …how a local law enforcement agency issuing a firearm or ammunition to a known user of marijuana can be legally justified without violating federal law?”
New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) has said he plans to introduce such a bill.
New Jersey Senate Republicans also sent a letter to Platkin. Minority leader Steve Oroho, Robert Singer, Kristin Corrado, Holly Schepisi, Tony Bucco, Declan O’Scanlon, Michael Doherty, Christopher Connors, Edward Durr, Jim Holzapfel, Michael Testa, and Samuel Thompson signed the letter.
“We implore you to take any action within your power to provide relief from liability to local law enforcement agencies with respect to the actions of officers who test positive for marijuana, but against whom no adverse employment action may be taken,” their letter said.
While Governor Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) have said they’re open and could support changing it, Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) is not. He is maintaining his position that it is the right of police to consume cannabis when they are not working. He has said more than once that police have the right to consume cannabis.
It might be difficult of the state-federal divide where some things remain controversial for certain regulated professions like union construction.
Governor Phil Murphy has been on a diplomatic mission in Europe seeking foreign investment since the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market opened last Thursday. Thus he has not commented on the matter as it has been developing.