Cops and Pot

Legalizing recreational pot in New Jersey hasn’t been easy.

Following many delays after voters endorsed it in 2020 – and don’t forget the refusal of state lawmakers to approve it outright – it finally begins for real on Thursday in about a dozen locales around the state.
But in recent days, another perplexing issue has surfaced.

What about cops, and presumably, law enforcement officers in general? Can they smoke weed? Off-duty, of course.

The state through Attorney General Matt Platkin says they can.

All lawmakers are not in accord.

Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, one of the three Republicans who “flipped” LD-3 last fall, suggests that those who want to smoke pot should not go into law enforcement. Sounds a bit harsh, no?

Some Democrats, however, are not sold on the idea either, one of whom is Sen. Paul Sarlo.

And Phil Murphy says he’s open-minded to considering a ban on off-duty officers lighting up a joint.

In support of Platkin’s initial analysis, no one suggests off-duty cops should be prevented from having a few beers. So why can’t they use weed?

One problem with that take is that legal or not, some see pot use as a tad decadent, at least when compared with having a beer at a ball game or a cocktail before dinner. That view is bound to change in the years ahead, but it hasn’t changed yet.

That’s why the idea of a local police sergeant getting stoned on his day off seems jarring to some.

There’s also the problem that marijuana stays in one’s system for a long time, which is something many who need to take a drug test understand quite well.

That doesn’t mean a person remains high for an extended period. But as long as traces of the drug remain in one’s system, it could prompt legal challenges to just about whatever an officer who smoked weed three days ago does. That could be a nightmare.

There’s also the fact marijuana, at least for now, remains illegal under federal law. Even if the feds are not enforcing that law, officers who smoke would be violating it.

At the same time, smoking marijuana would be a decision individual officers, just like everyone else, would make themselves.

And that seems to be the thinking of state Sen. Nick Scutari, long a booster of legal pot.

He said earlier this week that it can be a slippery slope to regulate personal behavior when an employee is not working. And maybe an illegal one.

Looks like the next weed debate in New Jersey is going to be about cops getting high on their own time.

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