The recreational marijuana clean-up bill needs it own clean up bill.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have raised concerns about workplace safety and parental notifications that became law when legislation was signed last month. Additionally, these new bills are seen as “anti-police,” and that law enforcement should not be punished for “doing their job,” said State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13).
New Jersey legislators have a key supporter for one of Gov. Murphy’s key legislative victories— Murphy himself.
“Without getting too much into the weeds, no pun intended on the notification question, I personally think that’s a step in the right direction,” said Murphy at a press briefing March 8 when asked the moved for parental notifications for underage marijuana offenses to the first offense instead of the second. “As a conceptual matter…I support that direction.”
The current legislation implements a gradual warning system for adults under 21 years of age found to be in possession of marijuana as well as alcohol. Law enforcement officials are prohibited from contacting parents when a minor is found in possession of or using marijuana and alcohol, until a second offense has been committed.
Bipartisan legislation in the State Senate will be introduced to allow parental contact after the initial offense, something lawmakers imply is common sense.
State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25) described this new law as an “attack on family values.” Waiting until a second offense is “playing with fire,” he said.
“For generations, a call from the police station advising that your child was drinking with friends or involved with drugs was more effective than any arrest or court appearance,” said Bucco. “It should be the duty and responsibility of law enforcement to let parents know when kids are breaking the law, especially when it involves a behavior that left unchecked could lead to more serious issues down the road.”
State Assemblymen are also preparing similar legislation.
“The parent should be the number one person monitoring and shaping the deportment of their children,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7). “And they should be viewed as the number one ally by government, schools and other agencies when it comes to monitoring and shaping the deportment of their children.”
Protection for Law Enforcement
Another aspect of the new legislation drawing criticism relates to a law enforcement officer’s interaction with minors. O’Scanlon explained that the new bill “exposes law enforcement to frivolous criminal liability.”
Lawmaker are concerned that it would now be much easier for a law enforcement officer to be charged with deprivation of civil rights for inconsequential errors when dealing with an individual under the now-legal age of 21.
The legalization of recreational marijuana has raised concerns about workplace safety as well. Additional protections for employers need to be implemented, so that on-the-job usage of alcohol and recreational drugs, including marijuana, can be prohibited.
“Marijuana may be legal, but it’s not safe for certain workers to be under the influence while on the job,” said State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36). “There should be no confusion about workers’ rights and employer responsibilities to protect workplace safety.”
Sarlo has proposed legislation that would address potential conflicts between the legalization legislation and standards governing workplace safety. Regulated professions that would be impacted include law enforcement, medicine and healthcare, education and childcare, building trades, utilities, heavy construction, truck drivers and equipment operators.
“Marijuana may be legal, but it’s not safe for certain workers to be under the influence while on the job,” he said. “There should be no confusion about workers’ rights and employer responsibilities to protect workplace safety.”
But, on the flipside, Sarlo said there also needs to protection for employees.
“I want to protect innocent employees who use recreational marijuana on their own time without realizing they could unknowingly put their job at risk by violating the drug-free workplace standards,” he added.