South Jersey Legislators Seek Clarification from Acting AG on Off Duty Police Cannabis Use
Trenton – Several South Jersey legislators, including Senators Singleton, Cruz-Perez and Beach and Assemblymembers Murphy, Greenwald, Lampitt, Moen and Moriarty, sent the following letter today to Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin seeking clarification on his recent memo pertaining to the use of cannabis by off-duty police officers. The text of the letter is below:
April 26, 2022
New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety
Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin
Dear Acting Attorney General Platkin,
We are writing this letter in response to your recent memo in which you state that police officers should not face disciplinary action for the off-duty consumption of legal cannabis products in New Jersey. While some of us were proponents of the expansion of recreational cannabis in our state, we are seeking clarification on the legal basis for this decision because it seems to contradict federal law and regulations and may present confusion to our law enforcement community.
Specifically, as you know, marijuana is, and remains, classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 812). Additionally, the federal firearms provisions (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3)) specifies that no person “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substances” may “possess…or…receive any firearm or ammunition.” It is further unlawful for “any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person…is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.”
More concerning, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) promulgated regulations implementing section 922 and defines a person “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” (27 C.F.R. § 478.11). The ATF issued an “Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees” on September 21, 2011, which states, in part, that: [A]ny person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition. Such persons should answer “yes” to question 11.e. on ATF Form 4473 . . . and you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to them. Further, if you are aware that the potential transferee is in possession of a card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana under State law, then you have “reasonable cause to believe” that the person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance. As such, you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to the person, even if the person answered “no” to question 11.e. on ATF Form 4473.
Considering that one of the essential job functions of a police officer is to lawfully possess and use a firearm and ammunition, and federal law prohibits a person from using marijuana (legal or otherwise) and possessing a firearm, then police officers in New Jersey should not be permitted to consume legal cannabis products whether they are on- or off-duty. Therefore, could you please explain, in light of the ATF’s reasoning outlined above, how a local law enforcement agency issuing a firearm or ammunition to a known user of marijuana can be legally justified without violating federal law?
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response so that it can be shared with our local law enforcement community.
Hon. Troy Singleton
Senator, 7th Legislative District
Hon. Carol A. Murphy
Assemblywoman, 7th Legislative District
Hon. James Beach
Senator, 6th Legislative District
Hon. Louis D. Greenwald
Assemblyman, 6th Legislative District
Hon. Pamela R. Lampitt
Assemblywoman, 6th Legislative District
Hon. Nilsa Cruz-Perez
Senator, 5th Legislative District
Hon. William F. Moen Jr.
Assemblyman, 5th Legislative District
Hon. Paul D. Moriarty
Assemblyman, 4th Legislative District