TRENTON — New Jersey parents must be notified if their minor child is caught buying or possessing marijuana under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Friday.
Murphy, a Democrat, signed the legislation a day after the Democrat-led Legislature passed what lawmakers called a “cleanup” bill to correct last month's law setting up the new recreational marijuana marketplace. It inexplicably and explicitly barred police from telling parents whether their children were unlawfully found in possession of marijuana.
Lawmakers moved the bill after what they said was an onslaught from constituents protesting the prohibition against parental notification.
Murphy didn't offer any statement or explanation for why the change was necessary, nor did the bill's sponsors explain how the prohibition came to be included in the February law.
Republicans needled the Democratic majority for “coming to our senses" and passing the new legislation.
Even though there was no opposition to the cleanup bill, it still didn't go far enough in fixing the recreational marijuana legislation for some.
That’s because the February law continues to hold that officers could be guilty of depriving someone of their civil rights if law enforcement questions a minor stemming from the discovery of marijuana, alcohol or hashish.
“The potential for criminal liability in any interaction will prevent officers from intervening in situations where underage criminal activity occurs, allowing underage marijuana and alcohol use to run rampant in our schools, in our parks and on our beaches,” said the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police in a statement on Thursday.
Under the law Murphy signed in February, a first offense would have resulted in a written warning. The law made it clear that the person’s parent or guardian was not to be notified. A second offense was a written warning along with information on drug treatment services.
Police were to provide a copy of the second warning to those younger than 18, along with a notice about the first offense, as well. The third offense carried a written warning again, along with a referral to drug treatment services. Parents and guardians would have been notified with a third offense.
The new law changes that so parents will be notified after a first offense.
Voters approved of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older by 2 to 1 in a ballot measure in November. It took more than three months for lawmakers and the governor to agree on legislation setting up the recreational marketplace.
Lawmakers acknowledged at the time that they might have to revisit the newly signed law with cleanup legislation.
The law also applies to cases in which a minor in found to be in possession of alcohol.