The state of New Jersey recently launched its adult-use recreational marijuana market. While adult residents and visitors were thrilled to finally be able to buy cannabis legally, a memo written by the attorney general of the state regarding off-duty police officers’ use of marijuana sparked controversy.
In the memo, Mathew Platkin clarified that according to the existing marijuana laws in New Jersey, police officers shouldn’t be penalized in any way if they use cannabis during their off-duty hours. There was immediate pushback from different quarters once this memo went public. For example, the Democratic speaker of the state assembly, Craig Couglin, immediately said that a bill should be filed in his office in order to address off-duty cannabis use by police officers.
Similarly, the chair of the budget committee in the state senate indicated he would like to amend the state law so that it is in line with the laws in other states with regard to marijuana use by police officers while they aren’t on duty. The state governor, who has been a strong advocate of cannabis legalization, has also weighed in on this matter. Phil Murphy indicated that he was in favor of a possible change in marijuana policy so that law enforcement officers aren’t allowed to use marijuana during their private time away from work.
Several Republican state senators have also written a letter to the attorney general of the state saying that allowing police officers to consume marijuana during their time off the clock would be in violation of federal law.
Despite all this pushback, the acting attorney general of the state has stuck to his guns. He insists that he is bound to respect the existing laws and if there were provisions that different sections of society weren’t comfortable with, then the legislature should make the necessary changes to that law. He also warned that cities and police departments that were taking unilateral action to ban off-duty marijuana use by law enforcement were contravening state law and could open themselves to all manner of lawsuits with regard to employment rights.
The top prosecutor’s comments come after Jersey City, in defiance of state law, issued a directive banning off-duty marijuana use by law enforcement. The majors of Weehawken and Kearny also revealed that they would be taking steps to place bans on off-duty cannabis use by law enforcement.
It remains to be seen how the issue of off-duty cannabis use will eventually be resolved after the launch of recreational marijuana sales. Plenty of interest from the entire cannabis industry, including companies operating in the space, such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC), may be directed toward how the off-duty use issue is handled as New Jersey joins the ranks of other states with legal marijuana markets.
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