MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Community Board on Police confirmed with Deputy Chief Albert Sally that officers have been briefed on the new marijuana laws signed by Governor Murphy at the end of February.
Chair of the Community Board Erin Scherzer began the discussion asking about how they could work with Maplewood PD to ensure that people aren’t being stopped unnecessarily because of the smell of marijuana.
Sally said MPD received memos from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office with guidance for enforcing marijuana laws moving forward.
“Our watch commanders have reviewed [the memos] with our patrol officers,” said Sally. “We told our patrol officers if they get into a circumstance to make sure they contact a supervisor.”
Included in the Attorney General’s memos: police officers can no longer use the smell of marijuana as justification to conduct a search, and no arrests can be made for under six ounces of marijuana. Marijuana legalization is only for people 21 and over, Dep. Chief Sally said that juveniles caught with marijuana will receive a warning from the department.
“We treat juveniles the same way we would if we went to a house party and there was alcohol in the house party— I mean we’re not bringing kids in for that. It would be a warning and contact the parents type of thing, and we would take the alcohol,” said Sally.
Scherzer also asked about the protocol regarding someone who is driving while high.
“It depends if the person is able to drive— you know, it's the same like a DWI,” said Sally. In 2020, Sally said, MPD made six DWI arrests. Usually, a determination happens after an accident or a complaint of a driver swerving is called in.
“Once [the officers] respond there they attempt to make that determination,” said Sally. Officers look for visual signs of impairment, conduct a field sobriety and breathalyzer test before an arrest is made. “We need more guidance from the Attorney General as far as marijuana.”
Officers still have to receive training on the new marijuana protocols and use of force. Sally did not have a time frame for the marijuana laws training but did say MPD has until the end of the year on use of force training. MPD has to send officers to receive the Attorney General’s training, so they can return and teach the rest of the department. Sally added that in the meantime, however, officers have been made aware and have no excuse not to know the new information.
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