HANOVER — I feel that it is my duty as the Hanover Township Chief of Police to inform the public, who may not be aware, of some very troubling and potentially dangerous legislation that was signed by Governor Murphy on February 21, 2021. The legislation in question was approved by the voters at the November 3, 2020, General Election. Referendum Question No. 1 stated as follows:
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA
“Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”?
Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market.
Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.”
The new legislation includes sections for individuals under 21 who possess or consume any amount of marijuana, hashish, cannabis, or alcohol in any public place, including a school. This is a serious concern. For a first offense, officers are only permitted to issue a written warning to the individual. However, the warning shall not be provided to the individual’s parent or guardian. A second offense results in another written warning and providing the offender with information on community drug treatment services. If, after the second offense, and the individual is under 18 years of age, copies of the first and second warnings shall be provided to a parent or guardian.
Third and subsequent offenses again result in written warnings. And, once again, the offender is given information on community drug treatment services. If the individual is between 18 and 21, a notice of the written warning shall be provided to the community drug treatment program. If the individual is under 18, a parent or guardian shall be provided with a copy of the written warning.
In addition, the odor of marijuana, hashish, or alcohol no longer constitutes reasonable articulable suspicion to initiate a stop of an individual under the age of 21, nor does it provide probable cause to search the person’s personal property or vehicle to determine a violation. The unconcealed possession of an alcoholic beverage, marijuana, hashish, or cannabis item that is observed in plain sight shall not constitute probable cause to initiate a search of an individual under the age of 21, or that individual’s personal property or vehicle to determine a violation of any law.
This department has worked diligently with our community, schools, elected officials, etc. in promoting substance abuse awareness with our younger residents. We will continue to work collaboratively work with these valuable partners. This ill-advised legislation will only strengthen our resolve to continue educating and protecting those who are among the most vulnerable and impressionable, our juveniles and younger children. I cannot believe that the ballot question would have received the support that it did, were these troubling elements of this enacted legislation presented to the voting public. I am respectfully requesting that if you share these sentiments, please contact your elected State Senators and Assembly persons and urge them to repeal those sections of the legislation that negate parental responsibility and tie the hands of law enforcement.
Chief Mark D. Roddy.