Viral video claims to show Newark, NJ cop smoking blunt (Opinion)
Recreational marijuana sales have been legal in New Jersey for less than 24 hours, and already we're seeing lines around dispensary doors in the Garden State.
Among the chaos, a video that purportedly shows a Newark, NJ police officer being offered a blunt from a civilian, smoking it, and continuing to go about his job, has been making the rounds on social media.
It caught my eye, and if you didn't know any better, it would catch your eye, too.
See the video below.
Something about it being the first day of legal weed sales in NJ and a cop consuming it in uniform in broad daylight didn't sit right with me. So I reached out to the Newark Department of Public Safety for more information.
Should you see the video pop up on your newsfeeds in the coming days, Public Information Officer Catherine Adams had this to say:
Per Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara, the video does not depict a Newark Police Officer. An amateur Instagram comedian posted the video on his page in an attempted skit. The post depicts an individual wearing a generic police costume and patch with no Newark Police Division markings.
Marijuana consumption by NJ police officers has been a hot topic in recent days. New Jersey State Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, says regulating people's behavior when they are on their own time is a "very dangerous slipperyslope."
Meanwhile, according to New Jersey 101.5's Eric Scott, Gov. Murphy says he's "open-minded" to talking about such a ban, adding if there were "reasonable steps" to banning cannabis use for police and all first responders, he would "absolutely" consider it.
Despite Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin's memo stating police officers who are off-duty in NJ are allowed to consume cannabis without threat of disciplinary action, some municipalities are taking matters into their own hands. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop went as far as saying his city's police officers will be fired if they use marijuana, even while off duty.
While I, along with many others, would be bothered by a cop consuming marijuana while on the job, like the video above fraudulently states, we should be just as bothered by this prohibition-type mindset Mayor Fulop and various town officials across the state subscribe to.
With the state voting to legalize marijuana, New Jersey has moved into the 21st century. The "reefer madness" era is now a distant memory, and yet there are people that hold powerful positions in our state that refuse to give in to their constituents. They are still holding on to the same fairy tale peddled by Louis J. Gasnier, Nancy Reagan, and most recently, Jeff Sessions.
Very simple question: Should police officers and other first responders be allowed to consume alcohol during their free time? Alcohol, the harmful toxin that impairs judgment and routinely makes situations worse, is far more harmful for the human body than marijuana. To tell a cop they can't have a beer after a long day on the job or during an outing on a weekend is asinine, despite how harmful alcohol may be.
If you pose this question to Jersey City's mayor, he'd likely tell you police officers are adults, and adults can make their own decisions about what they choose to consume.
So why is marijuana any different?
4/21/2022 is a big day in New Jersey's history and growth, but the fallout is a reminder that while marijuana legalization is a "win" in the eyes of most New Jerseyans, there is still some work to be done. Marijuana is NOT legal in New Jersey for everyone. In NJ you are also not allowed to grow more than a small amount of marijuana on your own personal property, making our state an outlier nationally. As Jay Lassiter writes on InsiderNJ, one lousy pot plant means serious jail time.
Movers and shakers in this state have had more than enough time to get on the same page. It's time to grow up.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 producer, writer, and host Joe Votruba. Any opinions expressed are his own.