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.