Trenton, NJ – The new attorney general of New Jersey announced on Thursday that law enforcement officers in the state would be permitted to use and consume marijuana off-duty once it is legal.
Adults 21 years of age and older will be able to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use in New Jersey as of April 21, the Asbury Park Press reported.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin issued a memo to police chiefs at agencies across the state on April 14 that said off-duty law enforcement officers were permitted to use marijuana under the new law.
Platkin told the chiefs in the memo that they “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty” under the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, the Asbury Park Press reported.
He said officers are still banned from using or possession marijuana on duty.
“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” the attorney general clarified. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state.
“The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less,” he added.
The new law permits employers to maintain a drug-free workplace and created procedures for handling suspected drug use at work, the Asbury Park Press reported.
“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” Platkin said.
But because THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can stay in the bloodstream for weeks, officers will also need to undergo a physical examination if drug use on the job is suspected, the Asbury Park Press reported.
The problem is that even though the state of New Jersey has given police its blessing to smoke marijuana, federal law still prohibits issuing a firearms license to habitual drug users, even if they have a prescription for it in their state.
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memo issued in September of 2011 specifically said firearms licenses cannot be issued or sold to any “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled dangerous substance,” the Asbury Park Press reported.
Regardless of what New Jersey has ruled, federal law still considers it an unlawful substance.
That ATF memo has been used by state regulators to deny law enforcement officers the right to use medical marijuana with a prescription, the Asbury Park Press reported.
Recreational marijuana use by law enforcement officers is widely considered to fall under the same guidelines.