Legalization of marijuana presents new challenges for NJ police departments
Five days ago, it became legal for adults to purchase marijuana in New Jersey. But legalization does not mean that it is a free-for-all when it comes to consuming cannabis.
“You cannot consume marijuana in a motor vehicle,” says Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski.
Zebrowski says that driving and consuming cannabis can lead to an impaired driving charge if one is pulled over by a police officer.
“Our officers are educated on seeing the signs and being able to do tests to see if someone is impaired,” Zebrowski says. “Those impairment tests are very similar, if not identical to alcohol.”
Those leaving a dispensary with their products may be tempted to use them right away. The suggestion is that customers wait until they are home or somewhere else that is private. An impaired driving charge could mean a suspended license or points on the driver’s record.
Regular cannabis users outside of ZenLeaf in Elizabeth say that they are fully aware of the rules.
“If you’re driving, you can’t smoke and drive for at least four to five hours after consumption,” says Marquis Maples, of Rahway.
But not everyone knew that it is against federal law to take marijuana out of the state. This could be an issue for Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania residents who are coming in to New Jersey to purchase recreational marijuana.
“You really put yourself in peril because now you’re dealing with federal statutes as opposed to state statutes,” says Zebrowski.
Zebrowski says he is especially concerned about first-timers who may not be familiar with how potent marijuana may be or how it metabolizes in the body.
“We don’t want to see an uptick in emergency room visits because someone ingested too much,” he says.
He says this is why the Sayreville Police Department is focused more on education than enforcement when it comes to legal cannabis.
Law enforcement officials also say that they are watching for so-called “pop-up marijuana shops” – storefronts that are selling marijuana without a license. They say that this has been prevalent in Canada.