To the residents of Clinton Township,
As you are undoubtedly aware, Governor Philip Murphy recently signed three laws which decriminalized marijuana, dismissed pending marijuana charges and set in place mechanisms to expunge/reverse previous convictions. This action was expected and came as no surprise, since the majority of New Jersey residents voted to legalize marijuana in the State. I, along with the officers of the Clinton Township Police Department, fully support the will of the people and the authority of the legislators in enacting these laws, as our Constitutional process dictates.
However, the new legislation does contain some provisions that I believe may be of concern to parents. Therefore, I will outline the changes to the marijuana and alcohol laws, as they pertain to juveniles. Going forward, when our officers now encounter juveniles, who are in possession of marijuana and/or alcohol, the following restrictions apply:
- The odor of marijuana and/or alcohol no longer constitutes “reasonable articulable suspicion” to initiate the stop of a person under the age of 21, and it no longer provides probable cause to search that person’s personal property and/or vehicle
- The unconcealed possession of an alcoholic beverage and/or marijuana observed in “plain sight” shall no longer constitute “probable cause” to initiate a search of a person under the age of 21, or that person’s personal property and/or vehicle to determine a violation of any law
- A person under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana and/or alcoholic beverages shall no longer be arrested, detained, or otherwise taken into custody, “except to the extent required to issue a written warning”
- For any person under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana and/or alcoholic beverages as a first offense, these new laws forbid officers to contact his/her parent or guardian to advise him or her of such
The Clinton Township Police Department has spent a great deal of time and effort to promote a healthy, safe, and well-protected community – especially for our children. The Department, and specifically our dedicated School Resource Officer and Juvenile Officer, have worked with our school districts to keep our students safe, keep our parents informed and provide access to educational programs to help juveniles make safe and appropriate decisions. Despite the challenges posed to law enforcement by these new laws, we will find a way to navigate these trying, troubling times – and to find new, better ways to work with the community to ensure their safety and well-being.
Please remember, the Clinton Township Police Department is always here for you. Our priorities have not changed – and will not ever change – even though our means of achieving them might.
To read more about marijuana legalization in NJ, click here. For the NJ Attorney General’s guidance on marijuana legalization, click here.
Thank you all, and please stay safe, healthy and vigilant!
Lieutenant Thomas DeRosa
Officer-In-Charge, Clinton Township Police Department