NJ Governor signs law forbidding police from notifying parents when a child is caught with marijuana

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law in February that forbids police from notifying parents when their child is caught with marijuana or alcohol if it is their first offence.

After the first reported incident, the police will be permitted to notify the parents of any offence. Governor Murphy tweeted the following in regards to his new law: “New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws are no more.” Governor Murphy went on to say, “Today, I signed historic legislation to; legalise adult-use cannabis, decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts, limit the use of previous marijuana convictions and create a regulated cannabis marketplace.”

This law is covered in senate 3454, the policy wording is as follows; “For a first violation, a written warning issued by a law enforcement officer to the underage person.  The written warning shall include the person’s name, address, and date of birth, and a copy of the warning containing this information, plus a description of the relevant facts and circumstances that support the officer’s determination of probable cause that the person committed the violation, shall be temporarily maintained in accordance with this section only for the purposes of determining a second or subsequent violation subject to the consequences set forth in subsubparagraph (ii) or (iii) of this subparagraph.  Notwithstanding the provisions of section 3 of P.L.1991, c.169 (C.33:1-81.1a) concerning written notification of a violation of this section to the parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of the underage person, a written notification shall not be provided pursuant to that section for a first violation of this subparagraph.”

However, police note that there is not a way to confirm if a minor has any prior incidents reported. “There is no data system that allows for the warnings to be memorialized, and then go to a centralized data bank. There’s no way to track this,” Sayerville Township Chief of Police John Zebrowski has confirmed. Republican Sen.-elect Holly Schepisi concurred: “The only way a parent would get notified is pretty much if a police officer in the same community picks up the same kid multiple times”. “If your 12-year-old child got caught smoking pot and drinking a six-pack in your local park, the local police have no ability to do anything and are prohibited from notifying a minor’s parents,” Schepisi explained, expressing her annoyance at the bill. Zebrowski reflected on an officer’s requirements in regards to this bill. “You would take possession of the contraband, there would be a notification to that child’s parents, and there would be a sit-down discussion afterward as to how we can assist, what programs would be available, and usually something called a stationhouse paperwork would be completed memorializing the interaction,” he explained. This has all changed since the bill was signed on Feb. 22.

Three-time White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Advisor Kevin Sabet has expressed some concerns regarding the bill. “We know that marijuana has a potential to reduce your IQ by 8 points,” he said. “I’m really worried about how this is going to affect not only the physical health, not only the academic achievement, because we also see lower test scores and more dropout rates among marijuana-using kids.” It’s not only Republicans who have spoken out about this. Since voting “yes,” state Sen. Vin Gopal, a Democrat representing Monmouth County, has also proposed legislation in regard to this bill. When pressed about her Democrat colleagues changing their tone, Schepisi said: “I think that they will only do it if they believe it to be politically expedient, and not because they actually care. If they actually cared they would’ve never voted on it to begin with.” 




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