Legal Weed Puts Some NJ Police in an Awkward Position

Jersey City's mayor has pushed back against police using cannabis even when off duty

Legal weed in NJ
Marijuana products are displayed at Apothecarium Dispensary on April 21, 2022 in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Recreational marijuana has been legal in New Jersey for well over a year now. That’s brought in a lot of revenue for the Garden State — including over $100 million in sales in the third quarter of 2022. That said, navigating the complexities of where state law conflicts with professional responsibilities has been a challenge for some — and Jersey City police may well be at the top of that list.

As Joseph Capriglione and Sean Carlson reported for Gothamist, Jersey City mayor Stephen Fulop believes that a component of federal law means that law enforcement in the city he governs must abstain from weed when they’re off duty. Fulop is currently at odds with the state on this issue; a state body ruled in August that off-duty police can indeed partake of legal weed.

“Federal law, it’s very, very clear that if you use Schedule 1 drugs, based on the federal guidelines, you’re not allowed to have a firearm. That’s very clear,” Fulop said on a WNYC interview. “And then New Jersey law is you cannot be a police officer without having a firearm.”

Fulop went on to contrast testing someone for recent marijuana use as compared to giving them a breathalyzer test for alcohol. The former, he argued, is challenging; the latter is not. He pointed to other states having “carveouts for certain professions” in a way that New Jersey does not.

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That said, Gothamist’s reporting does note that police in New Jersey are prohibited from being stoned while at work, and can be tested if they are suspected of being, as the saying goes, under the influence. Fulop does raise a valid point in terms of not wanting armed police to be anything other than sober when doing their jobs.

“There’s been no mayor in New Jersey that’s been more supportive of legalization of cannabis,” Fulop told WNYC. But his position regarding police officers’ use of cannabis in their downtime offers a unique legal challenge — and one we may well see more of as legal weed expands elsewhere in the U.S.

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