Gov. Phil Murphy’s attorney general said the decision on whether to legalize marijuana will be made by lawmakers and the governor, but pressed on the issue at a budget hearing, he said he has concerns and that there would be costs involved.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says recreational marijuana would pose challenges for detecting impaired people and testing drivers, and even for drug dogs, but that law enforcement is getting prepared.

“On top of all that, something that I find needs to be an important component of all this is education about prevention to our youth,” Grewal said.

Grewal said that if marijuana is legalized it will have an age limit, so the message he delivers in speeches to schools will remain the same.

“Even then, before marijuana legalization was ever contemplated, my message to children, or high school students and even younger, is don’t do any of this,” Grewal said.

“Don’t drink. Don’t smoke marijuana. Don’t smoke cigarettes. Don’t smoke any drugs, and don’t even experiment with pills,” Grewal said. "These drugs – all of these in combination, or one or the other – can lead you down a path, so don’t do any of it.”

Grewal said the State Police have met with counterparts in states where marijuana has been legalized and that working groups of prosecutors and police officers have been formed to study the anticipated issues.

He said New Jersey has more than 400 drug recognition experts among its police officers, second only to California, and is training 80 more in anticipation of whatever bill might pass.

Though the formal debate on marijuana legalization isn’t yet underway, three senators – none of whom support the idea, at least not yet – voiced concerns.

State Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, echoing similar remarks by state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, noted the potential juxtaposition of expanding efforts to deter abuse of opioids at the same state officials legalize marijuana.

“Obviously we have the opioid crisis going on, and if we were to legalize marijuana we have another message that to me is inconsistent,” Oroho said.

State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, who runs a Paterson company that manufactures adhesives, said he worries about industrial accidents if a worker eats a marijuana brownie at lunch, which he said would be harder to detect than alcohol on a person’s breath.

“If there’s an accident where one of my employees happens to fall into one of the mixing tanks, I’m out of business. I know OSHA will be in and close me down,” Bucco said.

Grewal said he expects businesses will be updating their employee handbooks.

“Employers now have a lot of restrictions. You can’t have – alcohol is legal, but you can’t show up to the workplace drunk,” Grewal said. “I’m sure employers will put in place similar restrictions on employees operating equipment in a drugged state.”


New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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