The New Jersey Attorney General Says Police Can’t Be Tested For Marijuana in Most Cases!
Now that marijuana is legal in New Jersey, the state’s attorney general has issued updated drug testing standards for law enforcement organizations, which prohibit marijuana tests in most cases. THC testing of police officers is still permitted under the new guidelines published last week if there is reasonable suspicion that they used cannabis on the job or if such testing is mandated by federal law.
Yet, the new memo states that “revising this policy” was “essential” after New Jersey approved recreational marijuana usage. “Agencies shall conduct drug testing where there is reasonable suspicion that a law enforcement officer is involved in illicit use of a prohibited dangerous substance or is under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance,” which includes unregulated marijuana or cannabis.
Yet, how the agencies would make that distinction is unclear. According to the chief prosecutor’s guidelines, testing is required whenever there is “reasonable suspicion of the officer’s use of a cannabis item while engaged in the performance of the officer’s duties” or whenever “observable signs of intoxication related to the use of a cannabis item while engaged in the performance of the officer’s duties” are present.
If the officer is part of a federal task force, holds a license regulated by the federal government that requires testing (such as a pilot’s license), or is required to be screened “by the terms of a federal contract or federal grant,” then cannabis metabolites may be detected during the screening process.
Last year, there was pushback after New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin (D) issued a letter saying that agencies could not sanction police for off-duty cannabis usage because of the state’s legalization of the drug.
Others, like Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D), have said they want to keep the off-duty carve-out in place, but some lawmakers, like Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D), have indicated that they will seek to enact legislation to address the issue.
Democratic governor Phil Murphy has indicated a willingness to reconsider the current regulation regarding off-duty marijuana use by law enforcement. On Facebook this week, the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association claimed, “after months of back and forth, we now have gained clarity” regarding cannabis testing for police.
“The new policy reflects substantial modifications to the cannabis/marijuana testing protocols,” the organization claimed in the post, as reported by The Asbury Park Press. Having these new regulations in place will help to safeguard police personnel and make their jobs easier.
In a letter to the state’s top prosecutor last year, several Republican senators voiced their displeasure with the law enforcement marijuana exception, arguing that the state should continue to prevent police from using cannabis due to federal laws.
Unfortunately, the fact that the federal statute that prohibits cannabis and other illegal drug users from possessing firearms also provides an exemption that appears to apply to law enforcement personnel seems to be being lost in the discussion.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) requires civilians to fill out a background check before buying a gun, and it has been made plain that answering “yes” to a question about marijuana use disqualifies a person from the transaction. Lying might land you in jail for as long as five years. Yet, the rules change when firearms are provided by government organizations.
Here’s the Federal Policy for People Seeking to Purchase or Possess Firearms with Respect to Marijuana:
It is forbidden to give a gun or ammo to someone who you know or suspect is abusing drugs. Shipping or transporting firearms or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce; possessing firearms or ammunition in or affecting commerce; or receiving firearms or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce shall be unlawful for any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.
And Here’s the Relevant Exception that Could Apply to Law Enforcement:
Any firearm or ammunition imported for, sold to, or issued for the use of, the United States or any department or agency thereof, or any State or any department or agency thereof, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter, with the exception of sections 922(d)(9) and 922(g)(9) and provisions relating to firearms subject to the prohibitions of section 922(p).
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that the federal government cannot justify its enforcement of the restriction on gun ownership by those who have a history of using marijuana, calling the decision “concerning.” Former Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) and many medical cannabis users have filed a lawsuit against the restriction, which is still being heard in a different federal court.
Last month, a Senate committee in New Jersey approved a pair of bills that would allow licensed marijuana businesses to deduct certain expenses on their state tax returns. This would be a partial remedy, as the industry remains blocked from making federal deductions under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.
Proposed restrictions for marijuana consumption establishments were released by authorities earlier this month as well. In his State of the State address last month, the governor of New Jersey praised the state’s burgeoning marijuana business, highlighting efforts being made to ensure an equal market and correct the wrongs of the drug war.