New Jersey lawmakers have signaled their intent to dial back a provision in the state’s recently enacted marijuana legalization laws that bar law enforcement officers from notifying parents when minors are caught possessing or using marijuana or alcohol.
Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a trio of bills that legalize marijuana in New Jersey and addresses underage possession and consumption. At the forefront of controversy, a third bill, S-3454/A-5342, creates “a written warning system, with parental notification in some instances” for the underage possession of “marijuana, hashish, or cannabis items.”
“Police shouldn’t be prohibited from telling parents that their child was caught engaging in illegal or dangerous activity with drugs or alcohol,” state Sen. Anthony Bucco said in a news release.
“Thankfully, it appears that both Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the Legislature want to fix this outrageous provision of our law,” Bucco added. “Governor Murphy apparently is supportive of this fix as well. Given that broad support, there’s no reason to delay action on moving this important legislation forward.”
Lawmakers plan to introduce measures in both the state Assembly and the state Senate to repeal the notification prohibition.
“While New Jersey has made recreational Marijuana legal in the state of New Jersey, it is still illegal for minors to possess or consume it,” the New Jersey Globe quoted state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Long Branch; Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Neptune; and Assemblywoman Joann Downey, D-Freehold, as saying in a joint statement. “If a minor is caught with these substances, we want their parents to know about it right away.”
From the start, Republicans in the Garden State blasted the bill, saying it effectively loosens penalties for underage use of marijuana.
“It is rare to see the governor and the Democratic majority reverse course on a bad policy,” Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said in a news release. “They made a huge mistake when they prohibited police from telling parents when their kids were caught with marijuana or alcohol. I am encouraged by recent reports that the majority is considering a repeal of this law.”
Police groups also expressed concerns about the bill, which establishes “criminal liability” for officers who commit “official deprivations of civil rights concerning” underage possession.
Another bill Murphy signed, A-21/S-21, “The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act,” creates a regulatory system for the Garden State’s budding cannabis industry, while A-1897/S-2535 decriminalizes marijuana and hashish possession.