WAYNE, NJ – On Thursday, the NJ Legislature passed S-5427/S-3565 and Gov. Phil Murphy signed it into law on Friday. The new law now allows NJ law enforcement to provide written notification to parents/guardians of “any violations” by minors who are caught consuming or in possession of alcohol or marijuana in any of its various forms.
This legislation was passed in response to backlash against the February 26 law: The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, which legalized and regulated cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older. It also and decriminalized marijuana and hashish possession. Along with this new law, Muprhy also signed S-3454, clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.
Among the provisions in the February statute, it was stated that written notification from law enforcement “shall not be provided” to parents/guardians for a first violation of alcohol or marijuana use or possession for minors under the age of 18. Although law enforcement was allowed to provide written notification for second and third violations.
The legislation passed on Friday changes that, and now allows written notification to parents/guardians for a first violation by their minor children.
“As the Chief of Police and as a parent, I was truly disturbed to see that the State of New Jersey decided to criminally penalize police officers for notifying parents that their child was utilizing alcohol or marijuana while underage,” said Wayne Police Chief, Jack McNiff. “The March 27th legislative changes that now allows police officers to make notifications to parents/guardians for first-time violations is definitely a step in the right direction. I laud our state legislators for acting so quickly to address this obvious flaw.”
However, S-3565 specifically prohibits law enforcement officers from detaining minors except to the extent to collect information and issue the written warning to the minor and their parent or legal guardian.
“I still have significant concerns about the overall effects this decriminalization will have on our youth, as well as the impact of impaired driving throughout the state,” added McNiff. “I am a 25-year career police officer, and well over half of that time has been spent instructing students in our school system as either a D.A.R.E. Instructor or School Resource Officer. My views on alcohol and marijuana being gateway drugs for our youth has certainly not changed.”
Despite his personal views, McNiff confirmed that the Wayne Police Department will follow the letter of the law.
“As always, the 116 members of the Wayne Police Department will adapt to these legislative changes by remaining true to our mission, safeguarding the civil rights of the people we serve, and remaining steadfastly committed to the community caretaking function aimed at protecting our children.
Several NJ State Senators were sponsors of this legislation, including Senators Vin Gopal, Joe Lagana, Dawn Addiego and Linda Greenstein.
“Marijuana was legalized for adults, not for children or teenagers,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), who serves as the Senate Majority Conference Leader. “Parents need to be notified if their underage child is using marijuana or alcohol, so they can take the appropriate steps to protect them from the potential harmful effects of substance use at young ages and to help them make responsible decisions. Allowing parents to remain involved and informed can help to make sure that first time offenders do not become repeat offenders.”
“The goals of social justice reform and greater economic opportunity through legalizing marijuana should not be achieved at the cost of parental involvement,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen). “As a father, I know that all parents would want to know if their children used alcohol or drugs. When they become adults, they can make responsible decisions based on well-informed, good judgement. Until then, parents need to be included, so they can provide the guidance and safeguards their children need.”
The new law takes effect immediately.