New Jersey police departments seek further guidance on marijuana laws following legalization
Police departments around New Jersey say that officers are in a holding pattern when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws until they get more guidance – particularly when it comes to underage use.
Under the new laws that Gov. Phil Murphy signed on Monday, anyone who is under the age of 21 who is caught in possession of marijuana or alcohol will face a warning for their first time and police won’t alert their parents. They also won’t face arrest.
The new legislation drew some criticism from the state PBA and Chief’s Association.
"We have an uneasiness for the next 24 hours until our state chiefs have a meeting with the state criminal justice and the attorney general,” says Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante. “Most chiefs in the state are passing along to the officers - do not make any marijuana arrests for possession, no juvenile arrests at this time, until we get better guidance tomorrow."
Ferrante says that he and other police chiefs in the state just learned of the new langue in the bill Sunday night. The bill will also hold police criminally liable for searching or questioning people believed to be under 21 years old who are in possession of marijuana or alcohol.
“We look at arrests, demographics of arrests. There needed to be social justice and again, that’s what law enforcements executives were on board with,” Ferrante says.
“Our major issues are worrying about juveniles and adults operating a motor vehicle under the influence,” says East Newark Police Chief Anthony Monteiro. “Not just the chiefs – but I think that’s also with the public.”
A meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon between the state Attorney General's Office and the Chiefs Association will address these issues.
“We realize that there are tens of thousands of officers in the state of New Jersey that all need to be taught about this…They need to know it immediately because they decided the law yesterday. Again, we had about 12 hours’ notice before this went to a vote,” says Ferrante.
The governor also signed legislation to legalize a recreational marijuana industry in New Jersey.