POINT PLEASANT — Borough officials and law enforcement leaders are voicing their concerns over the recent passage of legislation regarding underage possession or use of cannabis.
Nearly 68 percent of voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and up last year, in a response to a public question on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act, as well as S-3454 — which addresses underage possession or use of cannabis — on Feb. 22.
“There is no question, nor debate, on the outcome of the ballot question to legalize marijuana for adults at least 21 years of age; however; we did not anticipate that this legislation, specifically Senate Bill 3454, would strongly restrict the ability of police departments in New Jersey to communicate with parents about the use of marijuana and alcohol by their children,” Chief of Police Robert Lokerson told The Ocean Star.
“Parents should have the right to know if their child is using or in possession of marijuana/alcohol from the first encounter and be given the chance to discuss its consequences before it potentially becomes a larger issue.
“The legislation further criminalizes the conduct of officers who respond to a call for service or are investigating the underage use of marijuana, hashish, cannabis items, or alcohol and they notify the parents of children under the age of 18 that their child was caught with marijuana or alcohol, on the first offense.”
According to Chief Lokerson, restrictions in place concerning to the department when officers encounter juveniles in possession of marijuana and/or alcohol in any public place is that officers may not stop or search an underage individual or their personal property due to the odor or unconcealed possession of cannabis, under S-3454.
The fact that under the S-3454 “an individual under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana, hashish, cannabis items, or alcohol shall not be arrested, detained, or otherwise taken into custody, except to the extent required to issue a written warning,” and that “for a first offense of an individual under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana, hashish, cannabis items, or alcohol police officers shall not send a copy of the written violation to the juvenile’s parent/guardian,” were also concerning to the Point Pleasant Police Department.
Under S-3454, parents and guardians are notified of all subsequent offences, and minors are subject to fines or community service following their third offence.
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