MANCHESTER, NJ — Manchester Township police are asking residents to support local law enforcement as they push for additional changes to the state’s marijuana law.
The department posted a statement to Facebook Tuesday, urging changes to the law Gov. Phil Murphy signed Feb. 22 legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana. Murphy signed a law on Friday that allows police officers to notify parents when they encounter teens with alcohol or marijuana on a first offense. But authorities say it’s not enough.
The law legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults “places severe restrictions on law enforcement, even after the parental notification change has been signed by Governor Murphy,” Manchester police said in a post on the department’s Facebook page.
“The laws are unclear and confusing, and they discourage police interaction with at-risk youth,” the post said. “Allow police officers to participate in the collaborative societal effort to care for our children, and remove the threatening language against officers who seek to simply do their jobs.”
Police officers around the state say the existing marijuana legislation threatens serious sanctions on officers who approach minors observed using marijuana and alcohol when that observation is based on odor. Read more: NJ To Require Parental Notification For Marijuana
The threat of legal consequences for police officers has been a significant concern for law enforcement all over the state. The Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association held a news conference on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk on March 20 to express their concerns about the state’s marijuana law with respect to minors and police officers.
The Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association also has created a petition on Change.org urging residents to tell state lawmakers that more needs to be done to amend the law. More than 1,800 people have signed the petition since Friday.
“We understand the will of New Jersey voters in electing to legalize marijuana. We have no issue with the legal usage of cannabis for those of age, but minors are still prohibited under the law to use or possess alcohol and marijuana. Though this legislation has been amended to allow for parental notification, it only serves to provide a false sense of security to parents,” the petition said.
“Police use the power of observation to perform their duties as community caretakers, emergency aid providers, keepers of the peace, and law enforcement officers. This involves utilizing all of one’s senses, including the sense of smell. One of the most conspicuous manifestations of marijuana and alcohol use is the odor associated with their ingestion,” the petition says.
“Under the current legislation minors can be observed smoking marijuana by a police officer, but if that police officer stops or detains that minor based on the odor, that officer will face serious sanctions, including being charged with the Crime of Official Deprivation of Civil Rights. If officers are so discouraged from engaging minors using drugs and alcohol in the first place, what good is the parental notification amendment?”
Manchester police said the legislation discourages police interaction with at-risk youth.
“Allow police officers to participate in the collaborative societal effort to care for our children, and remove the threatening language against officers who seek to simply do their jobs,” the petition says. Read the full petition here.
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