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Marijuana Legalization Bill Poses Serious Threats to Your Job

The State Legislature this morning passed legislation to formally legalize the use of marijuana in accordance with the Constitutional Amendment that passed in November.  Unfortunately, the legislation was amended with language that contains severe penalties on law enforcement officers who attempt to use the odor or possession of marijuana AND alcoholic beverages as a reason to stop and search minors to enforce the law.  We are urging every member of law enforcement to avoid approaching people with marijuana until a proper legal analysis and direction can be developed once this law is signed by the Governor.

The legislation is treacherous to you because it creates a penalty of 3rd Degree Deprivation of Civil Rights if an officer uses the odor or possession of marijuana or alcoholic beverages as the reason for initiating an investigatory stop of a person.  The new law states a law enforcement officer can not use the odor of marijuana or alcohol as reasonable articulable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop.  The new law states a minor CAN NOT consent to be searched and that a law enforcement officer no longer has probable cause to search a minor for illegally using marijuana or alcohol.  And if an officer violates a minor’s rights by using pot or alcohol as the reason for a search then the officer will be charged with deprivation of civil rights.

This bill dangerously ties your hands.  It establishes penalties of only warnings for illegal use by minors of marijuana or alcohol BUT it essentially prevents an officer from even approaching a person suspected of being a minor.  Absent the commission of another crime or clear legal guidance officers are being forced to ask themselves if writing a warning is worth risking being accused and charged with a 3rd degree crime?  The mere smell of marijuana and its use in your presence will no longer be grounds to search an individual.

While marijuana is now legal for those 21 and older this language is an assault on our ability to do our job and to enforce the law.  This language is an attack on law enforcement officers by making us the target of punishment rather than the individuals breaking the law.  This language will have dangerous consequences for the public and the police.

Governor Murphy today issued Executive Order 115 which permits the State and local governments to rehire retired employees to fill certain needs related directly to the outbreak of the Cornavirus.  It is critical that every retired officer understand exactly what this rule says and how potential reemployment could be handled.  We expect the Attorney General to issue guidelines soon but we want to share this review today to ensure you are aware of what the Order says and does not say:
 
This Order does not require a former employer to rehire any officer and it does not mandate that it be put into effect unless staffing is impacted due to the virus.
 
The reemployment as a law enforcement officer would be under the same conditions as a retirement job as a Class II Special Officer.
 
The Order expands the number of Class II Special Officers a non-shore community may hire to meet any potential staffing needs due to the impact of the virus
 
The employment would be only for the duration of the COVID Emergency Order and it is not a full time commitment for any position.
 
There is no additional PFRS coverage and no access to disability or death benefits should something happen if reemployed under this Order.
 
Nothing in this Order would permit an officer who retired on a disability, who is over the age of 65, who has been retired for more than 3 years or who otherwise would not be qualified under existing law for employment as a Class II Special Officer from seeking employment.

The State PBA will continue to monitor the impact of Executive Order 115 and any guidance issued by the Attorney General which may touch upon this analysis.  Any member who suspects any abuse of this Order or any condition that impacts on the health and safety of a law enforcement officer should notify their Delegate to ensure the State PBA is aware.
 

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