(The Center Square) – The state Senate has approved – and the governor has signed – legislation to amend New Jersey’s recently enacted marijuana legalization laws.
A-5472/S-3565 amends a section of the law that bars law enforcement officers from alerting parents when a child is caught using or possessing alcohol or a marijuana product. It allows authorities to inform parents in writing upon the first and subsequent violations.
Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law legislation legalizing marijuana in New Jersey and addressing underage possession and consumption. However, some lawmakers complained one of the bills goes easy on underage possession, and some Republicans lamented the amendment doesn’t go far enough.
“This is a step in the right direction for New Jersey families, but to be frank, this legislation misses a major problem when it comes to fixing this mess,” state Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Boonton, said in a news release.
“For parents to be notified, police would have to be willing to risk criminal penalties when interacting with juveniles suspected of using or possessing marijuana or alcohol,” Bucco added. “Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are willing to fix a very important component of the problem that they’ve created, but their prioritization of the parental notification fix is a smoke screen that distracts from the nebulous conditions they have created that could easily ruin an officer’s career if not navigated flawlessly.”
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said more changes are needed to protect police officers from criminal prosecution. According to Republicans, officers could face charges under a provision in the new laws if they “knowingly, but not necessarily intentionally” violate procedural requirements.
“Any improvement to the parental notification law is hollow if Trenton doesn’t address this underlying atrocity,” O’Scanlon said in a news release. “I am pleased to see my Democrat colleagues recognizing some of the flaws in their recently enacted law, but even with this fix to allow appropriate parental notification, the third degree criminal charge hanging over officers’ heads is enough to discourage anyone from investigating underage possession complaints altogether.
“The irony here, is that this was done under the guise of social justice and police reform,” O’Scanlon added. “The Democrats have made it impossible for police to conduct an investigatory stop. They call this an equitable solution for everyone, but fail to recognize the extremely unjustified outcomes for police just trying to do the right thing.”