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New Jersey cops who bust anyone under 21 with weed won’t be able to tell the minor’s parents

New Jersey minors who are caught with cannabis for the first time will just be given a written warning by law enforcement – and their parents won’t be notified, causing tension with marijuana advocates and those wanting more stringent drug laws. 

Last Monday, Governor Phil Murphy signed three bills into law to ensure that the state had a peaceful transition to legalizing the drug in what he said was a bid to rectify disparities in policing.

Murphy signed into law bills that allow possession of up to six ounces of marijuana by people age 21 or older. Distribution and growing cannabis without a license remain illegal. The legislation, passed late last month by the Assembly and Senate, also eased penalties for minors for possession of marijuana beyond the limits. 

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Last Monday, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law bills that allow possession of up to six ounces of marijuana by people age 21 or older. Distribution and growing cannabis without a license remain illegal. The legislation, passed late last month by the Assembly and Senate, also eased penalties for minors for possession of marijuana

Minors, or those under the age of 21, can expect a variety of consequences if they are caught using marijuana by law enforcement on more than one occasion. 

First-time violators will be issued a written warning that will include their name, address, date of birth and details of the probable cause, Patch.com reports. Their parents won’t be notified on the first offense.

Those minors with a second offense will have a written note issued to them and their parents or guardian. Included in the notification will be a referral to a public or private agency or organization that specializes in community oriented substance-abuse services. 

Third-time violators will incur fine of up to $50, or will be required to provide community service. The fines collected from this new venture will go toward helping find and fund substance use and community service programs.

Gov. Phil Murphy as he has signed into law legislation to set up a recreational marijuana marketplace on Feb. 22

Gov. Phil Murphy as he has signed into law legislation to set up a recreational marijuana marketplace on Feb. 22

Since minors are ‘not capable of giving lawful consent to a search,’ law enforcement officers can no longer request to search those they suspect of having cannabis. 

Law enforcement officers are also are now prohibited from initiating an investigation for people of any age simply for catching a whiff of cannabis, hashish, or any item associated with the drug.  

Officers also no longer have probable cause to initiate a search of a person or their property simply for noting an unconcealed possession of an alcoholic beverage or cannabis item.

Underage people who buy cannabis or items for usage will no longer be subject to arrest nor will they be taken into custody by law enforcement. 

However, those who distribute weed to underage people could face a $250 fine for their first offense, followed by $500 and then $100 for each subsequent violation. 

The move from Murphy has angered those in law enforcement, with the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association claiming that bill ‘dangerously ties your hands.’

New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association claimed that the bill 'dangerously ties your hands'

New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association claimed that the 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,’ the union claimed in a Facebook post shared last Monday. ‘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.’ 

The union also slammed their ability to be charged with violating civil rights if they stop minors to conduct searches. 

‘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 police union added.

‘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. 

New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform said on Twitter that getting the legislation passed has 'been a long time coming'

New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform said on Twitter that getting the legislation passed has ‘been a long time coming’

According to Dr. David Nathan, a psychiatrist and founding member of both the New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and Doctors of Cannabis Regulations, the passage of the bills will 'help people understand that the criminal justice approach to cannabis misuse is simply the wrong tool to be using.'

According to Dr. David Nathan, a psychiatrist and founding member of both the New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and Doctors of Cannabis Regulations, the passage of the bills will ‘help people understand that the criminal justice approach to cannabis misuse is simply the wrong tool to be using.’

But according to Dr. David Nathan, a psychiatrist and founding member of both the New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and Doctors of Cannabis Regulations, the passage of the bills will ‘help people understand that the criminal justice approach to cannabis misuse is simply the wrong tool to be using.’ 

‘We’ve done a good job of not only creating a legal distinction between adult and underage use that reflects the science of what we want our kids to emulate but we have also shown and convinced our lawmakers that the criminal justice approach is simply the wrong approach for anyone with problems of cannabis misuse and that goes for kids as well. 

Speaking with Ami Kachalia of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, Dr. Nathan declared that the ‘criminal justice system clearly doesn’t work.’

He continued: ‘The fact is that at the same time that tobacco and alcohol usage decreased around the country for the past 40 plus years as a result of good, realistic, evidence based preventive education that kids have learned to actually trust… we’ve done quite the opposite with cannabis. When we are telling kids that cannabis is against the law for everyone because it is bad for everyone, they wouldn’t listen to us.’ 

Speaking with Ami Kachalia of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, Dr. Nathan declared that the 'criminal justice system clearly doesn't work'

Speaking with Ami Kachalia of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, Dr. Nathan declared that the ‘criminal justice system clearly doesn’t work’

Nathan stressed that it was crucial to ‘teach our kids that the non medical use of cannabis can indeed have deleterious health affects for minors that it doesn’t typically have for adults. 

‘Now we have a chance at actually preventing underage use,’ he added. We know that that approach works not just because of our success with alcohol and tobacco rates going down while it remained legal for adults but also because we see in the legalized states that non medical use marijuana is not going up among young people in legalized states.’    

Dr. Nathan took to his Twitter shortly after the legislation was signed by the governor

Dr. Nathan took to his Twitter shortly after the legislation was signed by the governor

New Jersey joins more than a dozen other U.S. states, including other East Coast states of Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, in legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Dozens of states permit marijuana to be used by patients suffering a variety of medical conditions.  

The move is expected to boost New Jersey’s pandemic-stricken economy by launching a for-profit cannabis industry that should generate millions of tax dollars for the state. Recreational sales at state-licensed dispensaries, however, may be as much as a year away.

‘We can get down to the business of establishing a responsible, sustainable, profitable and diverse adult-use and expanded medical cannabis market in New Jersey,’ Edmund DeVeaux, head of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said in a statement.

‘We can stop the senseless arrests for possession and use of a product that should have never been criminalized in the first place, and the voters approved over three months ago,’ he said.    


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