New Jersey State PBA Statement
Marijuana “Clean Up” Bill
Senate Bill 3454
Today the police have been handcuffed!
In November, the citizens of New Jersey ended the debate about Marijuana legalization by passing the referendum. We do not oppose the legalization of marijuana as an organization. Police will do their jobs as the law directs us. But a law that establishes an enforcement power cannot also make it illegal for law enforcement to use that power.
The law as it stands criminalizes any response or investigation by a police officer for illegal use by juveniles by detaining someone ‘for a longer period beyond the extent required’ to issue a ‘warning or write-up’. This statute adds so much guess work and uncertainty that we would advise our members throughout the state to take no law enforcement action regarding marijuana or alcohol use by any party in the state.
This language is anti-police rhetoric at its worst and its consequences will be real. Underage users of marijuana will be free to smoke it anywhere, including in places the bill says is illegal, because merely stopping a person to enforce the law is now illegal for police. Drug dealers will quickly learn to hide their drugs, guns and evidence of crimes on anyone under 18 years of age since merely lighting a joint as the officer approaches will put the officer in jeopardy of making an illegal search and being charged criminally.
The bill permanently ties an officer’s hands. An officer who sees or smells marijuana or alcohol cannot even inquire about the age of the user to ensure they can legally possess it, or the officer faces the charge of deprivation of civil rights, a 3rd degree offense subject to 3-5 years in prison, a fine of $15,000 or BOTH!
The solution exists to resolve this, either make it completely legal or provide an officer the right to ask for ID if marijuana is present and the rest of the law governing the issuance of warnings takes over. Otherwise, this is a bill intentionally designed to make law enforcement officers criminals overnight in New Jersey.
To the good citizens of the State of New Jersey: If you as a citizen would like to report the underage use of marijuana or alcohol, please do not call 9-1-1. Call the Governor’s office or your local state legislator. We have literally been handcuffed.
Also at their website
Marijuana Legalization Bill Poses Serious Threats to Your Job
The State Legislature this morning passed legislation to formally legalize the use of marijuana in accordance with the Constitutional Amendment that passed in November. Unfortunately, the legislation was amended with language that contains severe penalties on law enforcement officers who attempt to use the odor or possession of marijuana AND alcoholic beverages as a reason to stop and search minors to enforce the law. We are urging every member of law enforcement to avoid approaching people with marijuana until a proper legal analysis and direction can be developed once this law is signed by the Governor.
The legislation is treacherous to you because it creates a penalty of 3rd Degree Deprivation of Civil Rights if an officer uses the odor or possession of marijuana or alcoholic beverages as the reason for initiating an investigatory stop of a person. The new law states a law enforcement officer can not use the odor of marijuana or alcohol as reasonable articulable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop. The new law states a minor CAN NOT consent to be searched and that a law enforcement officer no longer has probable cause to search a minor for illegally using marijuana or alcohol. And if an officer violates a minor’s rights by using pot or alcohol as the reason for a search then the officer will be charged with deprivation of civil rights.
This bill dangerously ties your hands. It establishes penalties of only warnings for illegal use by minors of marijuana or alcohol BUT it essentially prevents an officer from even approaching a person suspected of being a minor. Absent the commission of another crime or clear legal guidance officers are being forced to ask themselves if writing a warning is worth risking being accused and charged with a 3rd degree crime? The mere smell of marijuana and its use in your presence will no longer be grounds to search an individual.
While marijuana is now legal for those 21 and older this language is an assault on our ability to do our job and to enforce the law. This language is an attack on law enforcement officers by making us the target of punishment rather than the individuals breaking the law. This language will have dangerous consequences for the public and the police.