Morris County Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution Wednesday night urging Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey State Legislature to “revisit and revise” legislation adopted last month that ties the hands of law enforcement officers who find children with marijuana and alcohol and prevents parental notification.
“Parents must be encouraged to be involved in the lives of their children, not separated from them by state legislation, especially when minors are found possessing or consuming substances considered problematic enough that the state controls both adult and underage usage,” the Morris County resolution states.
Morris County officials said on February 22, 2021 Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation, entitled “The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act,” to allow marijuana use by adults - people 21 years old and older - and to decriminalize possession of marijuana and related substances.
Officials say he also signed S3454, legislation that was supposed to clarify marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.
However, the law specifically prohibits law enforcement officers from notifying parents when a child is involved in a first offense of possessing alcohol, marijuana, hashish, or cannabis and requires only the issuance of a written warning.
Commissioner Douglas Cabana, who is a liaison to public safety, said many communities are outraged and urging a repeal of the legislation.
“It is a sad state of affairs when we would restrict parental rights and parental notifications,” Commissioner Cabana said. “Hopefully this will see the light of day in Trenton so we can rectify it.”
According to Morris County officials, S3454 additionally prevents officers from initiating an investigatory stop of underage individuals, even if they smell the odor of marijuana, hashish and cannabis, and officers are prohibited from initiating a search of those individuals even when they observe them openly possessing alcoholic beverages, marijuana, hashish, or cannabis.
The Morris County resolution echoes concerns and objections expressed by Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association and Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon officials said.
Those organizations said the law prevents police from doing their jobs and that law enforcement officers found not complying with the provisions of S3454 face criminal penalties, specifically conviction of a third-degree crime that carries the potential of imprisonment for 3 to 5 years, a $15,000 fine or both.