TRENTON, NJ  Parents will now be notified the first time their underage child is caught using or possessing marijuana or alcohol under a measure signed into law on Friday by Governor Phil Murphy.  The law sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex) and Assemblyman Dr. Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) revises the recently enacted adult-use cannabis law that requires parental notification by law enforcement officers for second and third violations.

After the recreational adult use marijuana bill was passed, there was swift opposition by law enforcement such as the State Policeman's Benevolent Association (PBA) who opposed the provision preventing law enforcement from notifying parents if their child was found in possession of marijuana or alcohol.  

“It is important to remember that it is still illegal for minors to possess or consume marijuana, alcohol and other substances in New Jersey,” said Greenstein, who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “Parents should be notified of their children’s possession or consumption of drugs and alcohol. They have a right to know about any offenses to ensure that their children are safe.”

The amended law now requires parental notification upon the first violation for underage possession or consumption of alcohol, cannabis item, marijuana or hashish by individuals under the age of 18. Previously, the parent or guardian of the minor would be notified after a second violation and provided information on how to access community-based services. They would also be notified for any subsequent violations, with the minor subject to a referral to community services.

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 "With this legislation, we address the many concerns for the lack of parental notification of underage drinking and cannabis use under the cannabis legalization bill recently signed into law. Parents and guardians should be notified of a child's interaction and their potential harm through the use of alcohol and cannabis," said Conaway, the Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee who is also the Director of the Burlington County Health Department.

"These substances are not meant for children. Diligent notification to their parents will allow for intervention and resources to be employed to help stop underage substance abuse early," added Conaway.

Support for the legislation also came from county and local officials recently. On Thursday night, the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution supporting its passage. 

“Speaking as a parent of a 13-year-old and 11-year-old I would like to be notified immediately if one of my children had an incident with drugs or alcohol instead of waiting for a second incident before being notified,” said Commissioner John A Cimino

“This bill is a no-brainer from a parent’s perspective.  If a parent isn’t informed they are not given the tools to help intervene.  By being informed parents are given the opportunity to help stop substance abuse before it is too late,” concluded Commissioner Chairman Samuel T. Frisby Sr. 

Recently, Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried and Police Chief Chris Nitti spoke out against the initial law saying that it was :problematic is the inability of the police to freely communicate with the parents and guardians of our children."  They also noted that the municipal government and police department have strong ties to the community and our juveniles including full-time School Resource Officers (SROs) in all local schools, Coffee With a Cop, the Good Behavior Citation program, the RTPD Youth Academy and the S-T-A-R (Stop, Think, Act, Reflect) program, formerly known as D-A-R-E- (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

New Jersey the 13th state in the country to legalize cannabis and only the fourth on the East coast, with Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts passing similar laws in recent years. Similar legislation is currently under consideration in New York State. 

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