Now over half-dozen NJ police departments say no off-duty pot use
TRENTON – Add Bloomfield and Toms River to the growing list of New Jersey cities and towns that won’t allow their police officers to consume recreational marijuana while off duty, despite it now being legal and sold in state-licensed dispensaries.
Two weeks ago, acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a memo that the state’s legalization law doesn’t include a carveout blocking police officers from using recreational marijuana on their own time, unlike other states. He said departments shouldn’t penalize officers who do, unless they are intoxicated while on the job.
The Toms River Police Department announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday that regardless of the memo, it would maintain its current prohibition.
“The Toms River Police Department, along with many law enforcement agencies in the state, will be keeping our policy intact,” the department said. “Our officers will not be permitted to use recreational marijuana on or off duty. Marijuana remains listed as a Schedule I drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.”
The Toms River Police Department in its post erroneously called the memo a directive from Platkin. It’s not actually a directive, which has a specific legal meaning when issued by the attorney general. It’s a memo summarizing the current law that Platkin said was written in response to questions, not a policy.
The Township Council in Bloomfield passed a resolution at its Monday meeting prohibiting police from off-duty marijuana use and encouraging the Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy to pass legislation enacting a statewide ban.
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Jersey City was the first municipality to say it would continue to prohibit its police officers from using marijuana despite its legalization. It was quickly followed by other towns including Bayonne, Kearny, Weehawken and Woodland Park, as well as the Ocean County sheriff’s office and perhaps others where it's not yet made public.
Combined, those police agencies employ 1,740 of the 30,505 police officers in the state, according to a state database.
The City Council in Newark has also urged Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration to adopt a similar prohibition for that city's 1,034 police officers.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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