MORRIS COUNTY, NJ -- Police departments across New Jersey have made statements on the new cannabis law that was enacted on Feb 22 2021. Now the Morris County Sheriff's Office has weighed in and has announced that the newly enacted cannabis decriminalization law needs reform already.
The Sheriff's Association of New Jersey is urging the governor and state legislature to quickly pass legislation that would amend the decriminalization statute.
"The voters decided that cannabis should be legal. However, for the safety and well-being of our children, intervention strategies should never be halted," said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon. "The threat of criminal charges against police if they intervene is extremely disturbing."
County Sheriff's offices have developed programs to halt the use of illegal drugs and to help individuals with addiction, stated Gannon. The sheriff's office believes that the newly enacted legislation is a step backward in allowing agencies to help those that need help.
"The inability for law enforcement to be able to talk to a parent or guardian about the use of marijuana or alcohol by an underage boy or girl, not only sends the wrong message but takes away a parental right," said Gannon.
Morris County, as well as several other counties in New Jersey, have employed the "Hope One" model, which is a mental and addiction strategy program.
"Connecting underage boys and girls with their parents and guardians and programs such as Hope One should be encouraged not discouraged," Cannon continued.
The Sheriff's Association is concerned about the inability to act upon the smell of marijuana or alcohol especially in the case of a first stop. The legislation states that those underage cannot legally possess marijuana or alcohol, but Gannon stated that the initial warning that they will now give provides no enforcement and can cause potential harm to others and liability to the officer.
"Unfortunately, if a 14-year-old child is found with under five ounces of cannabis or a bottle of vodka, the police officer can seize the marijuana or alcohol with a warning but can't tell the parent or guardian. I am sure this is not what was intended," said Gannon.
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