A dividing line may be forming in the law enforcement community over the use of marijuana.

The debate kicked up days before the sale and use of recreational marijuana became legal with a memo from acting state Attorney General Matt Platkin. He issued a reminder to police chiefs and directors that they "may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.”

Gov. Phil Murphy hedged on Platkin's statement and indicated he was "open-minded" to talking about putting a ban on police use. Murphy said if there were "reasonable steps" to banning cannabis use for police and all first responders, he would "absolutely" consider it.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis issued statements that members of their respective Hudson County cities would lose their jobs for partaking on their own time.

Kearny Mayor Al Santos and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner told NJ.com that they want the state to issue guidelines clarifying police use.

New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, called regulating people's behavior when they are on their own time a "very dangerous slippery slope" and one he was "not willing to go down."

Recreational Marijuana New Jersey

Following the highest law enforcement officer in the state

Pat Colligan, president of the state's largest police union, supports Platkin in allowing his members to use it.

"I will defer to the chief law enforcement officer in the state of New Jersey, the attorney general. For Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis to say they're not going to follow the law is pretty interesting," Colligan told New Jersey 101.5. "They'll pull the Constitution. We don't really get to pick which laws we want and which laws we don't want. That's not the way the mayor should work."

Colligan said he has spoken to Joe Cossolini, the president of the Jersey City police union, the Police Officers Benevolent Association. If it comes down to it, such as a member being fired, they will go to court.

"We are also asking our officers to hold off until we have clarity on when the new drug tests come in and new policy comes out. We don't want anyone to be the test case," Colligan said.

Colligan said that before the pandemic, he was working to get the state to allow his members who were on long-term disability, long-term comp or terminally ill to be able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The pandemic sidetracked further meetings and discussions.

When the referendum question came up in 2019 Colligan said the union didn't take a position.

"They make the laws and we follow them," Colligan said. "It's hard to ignore the 67% of New Jersey citizens who wanted it. I guess we're more for it than against it but we took no position on it."

The PBA called for the law to be passed after Murphy signed it when it made it illegal for police to make an arrest for marijuana or alcohol use based on appearance or smell. The Legislature eventually signed a "clean up bill" that adjusted much of the law.

Recreational Marijuana New Jersey

The Schedule 1 problem

Colligan said his union's lawyers are still how the fact that marijuana is a Schedule 1 federal drug squares with Platkin. There's no question on that issue for Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronadry, who said it goes beyond use by police.

"Because marijuana is still classified as illegal under federal law, any agency that allows its officers to use the drug could be ineligible to receive certain federal grants," Mastronardy and Ocean County Commissioner Jack Kelly, both Republicans, said in a joint statement. “The Ocean County Sheriff will continue to follow federal law."

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners called for Murphy and the Legislature to review Platkin's statement

"Put the safety of our citizens and law enforcement community first and address the issue of recreational cannabis use by law enforcement officers," Mastronadry and Kelly said.

A group of Republican lawmakers also pointed out that marijuana users are prohibited by the federal government from buying or possessing guns.

“Though we strongly question the wisdom of encouraging officers to use marijuana while off-duty, we are most troubled by the inevitable consequences of this policy for municipal and county governments, which go beyond the potential loss of federal contracts or funding,” they wrote.

At least two more mayors in Hudson County have joined the list who will not allow police officers to use legal marijuana on their own time.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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The 2002-2003 New Jersey Nets: The last time the NBA Finals came through NJ

In 2012 the Nets made their Brooklyn debut, but before that, New Jersey was the home of the Nets dating back to 1977.

The franchise was born in 1967, under the name the New Jersey Americans. They played their games in Teaneck as part of the American Basketball Association. One year later they moved to Long Island, becoming the New York Nets.

It was there the team won two ABA championships in 1973-74 and 1975-76. The very next year the Nets, along with three other basketball franchises, were absorbed into the NBA as part of a merger deal, abolishing the ABA. 

When the Nets first moved to New Jersey, they played their home games at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. Then in 1981, they moved into the home many of us remember them in the most, the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford (later named the Continental Airlines Arena, then Izod center). 

After years of losing, The Nets made it to two straight NBA Finals in 2001-02 and 2002-03. In 2002-03, the final time they sniffed the championship, the team lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

It would be the last time the Nets sniffed the title, but their efforts added them to New Jersey lore forever.

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