In a joint letter, seven New Jersey township police associations pleaded with residents to contact their local state representatives to counter a recent law that hamstrings policing abilities regarding under-age possession of alcohol and marijuana.
On Feb. 22, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation decriminalizing the use and possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for ages 21 and up, but the legislation also included measures that Police Chief Stephen Beecher of Mount Olive Township, doesn’t believe people anticipated.
“What I do know is that when people voted on the referendum, it was whether or not to legalize marijuana,” he said. “Sixty seven percent of the people in New Jersey voted to legalize marijuana. But I’m sure 67 percent of the people — if they were to vote for it — wouldn’t vote to not be notified if their son or daughter had contact with the police because they were in unlawful possession of alcohol or marijuana.”
Under the new law, police officers are no longer allowed to call the parents of a minor caught in possession of marijuana or alcohol, when a warning has been issued.
“What the new law calls for is actually graduated warnings,” Beecher explained. “If you stop a car with somebody who was 17 in there…you are to issue them a warning.”
Beecher said that officers are not allowed to ask for identification, instead the minor in possession tells them their personal information for the warning.
“And as the law presently stands, you wouldn’t notify a parent, which is contrary to what we’ve been doing for many, many years now,” he explained. “And as a parent, I find that just wrong.”
Lawmakers are now reviewing legislation to amend the parental contact portion of the law, which Murphy – who ran on legalizing marijuana as a part of his campaign’s platform – has suggested he would “be agreeable to signing off on,” the police chief said.
But apart from the lack of parental notification, there are measures in the law that put law enforcement at risk of steep penalty charges if they unintentionally violate the provisions in the new law. These violations would include, asking to search a minor or vehicle for suspected alcohol or marijuana, or forgetting to turn their on their body cameras during a suspected violation.
New Jersey’s attorney general has issued a body camera directive, requiring all police officers to wear them by June 1, 2021 – meaning the new legislation puts officers at risk whose precincts have not yet suited their force with body cameras.
“What they did is they removed the intent,” Beecher said. Adding that if an officer unintentionally violates the procedural regulations outlined in the legislation they could be criminally charged and face three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
“I think what it does is, it discourages interactions with police officers and people,” the chief said.
Fox News could not immediately reach New Jersey’s governor for comment on the new law’s restrictive measures.