Police shouldn’t have to worry about marijuana; let them concentrate on more serious crimes – like maybe the guy illegally selling oxycontin pills.
Phil Murphy made that general point today, although he didn’t specifically mention oxycontin. But you got the idea.
Judging from the immediate reaction of the New Jersey PBA, police agree, but probably not the way Murphy envisions.
In a blistering release the PBA said it would advise its members “to take no law enforcement action” regarding pot or alcohol use in New Jersey. And if the public sees underage folk indulging, don’t call 911.
“Call the governor’s office or your local state legislator,” the PBA advised. “We have been literally handcuffed.”
Guess you can call this the other side of the marijuana issue.
Murphy was upbeat now that so-called clean-up marijuana legislation has been passed and signed.
He talked about fulfilling the commitment to voters, who endorsed pot legalization last fall. It took more than three months to truly accomplish that, but the governor was undaunted.
“It is better to get things done right than fast,” he said.
The hold-up had to do with penalties for those underage.
As the governor reiterated today, “It’s not legal for kids.”
O.K. But what happens to underage pot smokers?
From the outset, Murphy has framed the pot debate not as a way to raise revenue, or to allow aging baby boomers to relive their college days.
“Social justice” has been the focus.
That means stopping young people from having a criminal record for smoking weed. This is a bigger problem for minority youth who are more likely to be arrested than suburban whites.
The solution – crafted after weeks, if not months, of debate – offers very lenient penalties. We’re talking about a $50 fine in most cases and for those under 18, warnings, parental notification and perhaps counselling.
The PBA’s gripe is with how police must approach underage users of pot and under the new legislation, alcohol as well.
They must do it carefully.
The bill, for instance, specifically prevents police from searching an underage person suspected of using pot even if the smell of marijuana is present.
The PBA’s take is that underage users of marijuana will be free to smoke anywhere they want. And it warns of real-time consequences, arguing that drug dealers will just hide their stash on those under 18.
Some Republicans in opposition to marijuana legalization have raised similar concerns.
When asked about that, Murphy said he wasn’t familiar with what Republicans are saying.
He again stressed the positives of pot legalization – a new industry, jobs and ending the stigma of giving young people criminal records for smoking pot, which, in truth, is something most Americans have done themselves at least a few times.
“As of today, better days are here,” Murphy said triumphantly.