FLORHAM PARK — The following letter was prepared at the request of Florham Park Borough Councilmen Charles Malone (Liaison to Finance & Recreation) and Scott Carpenter (Liaison to Police, Fire and First Aid), was presented at the March 4, 2021, Florham Park Borough Council Meeting and subsequently approved for issuance.
An Open Letter to the Residents, Businesses, and Stakeholders of Florham Park:
On February 22, 2021, the Governor of New Jersey signed into law three (3) bills that effectively legalized marijuana and significantly changed the way possession, distribution, sale, and use of marijuana is regulated throughout our State. As many are aware, this legislation was purportedly in response to voter approval of a State question on the November election ballot to amend the State Constitution to legalize marijuana for “adult use only.”
What many residents may not be aware of, however, is how significant the changes in the law are as it applies to persons that are underage. While still technically prohibited for anyone under age twenty-one (21), the new law essentially legalizes marijuana and alcohol for children, teenagers, and anyone else under age twenty-one (21) in some respects by eliminating penalties for underage use and possession. It also significantly restricts the ability of law enforcement to interact with underage persons in encounters involving marijuana and alcohol. A summary of some of the key changes in the law as related to people under the age of twenty-one (21) is listed below. Astonishingly and maybe most significantly, the new law forbids parental notification by police in connection with first marijuana and/or alcohol-related offense. Parental notification is only required for second and subsequent offenses.
Like many residents, the Mayor and Members of the Florham Park Borough Council are deeply concerned about the impact of this new law on children and families within the community. While we respect the will of the people in voting for this initiative, we believe the legislation that was passed is inconsistent with the intent of those that voted for this constitutional amendment. Furthermore, in our view, any law that restricts the ability of parents, guardians, and families to be notified and informed of their minor children’s behavior is misguided and stands in contradiction to the type of policies we should be encouraging and creating.
In that regard, the Mayor and Borough Council of Florham Park have been consistent and unwavering in our support and funding of school, policing, and other community-based programs, such as the D.A.R.E. Program (Drug Awareness Resistance Education), the Florham Park Police Department’s Community Policing Program, the assignment of School Resource Officers to Borough schools, National Night Out, Safe Night Out, Coffee With A Cop, and others as a means of educating and ensuring positive choices for the Borough’s youth. Our annual budgetary commitments of your tax dollars to these programs been unwavering and money well-spent in light of the long body of research that has consistently found early education and intervention to be highly effective in combating drug and alcohol use as potential gateways to future substance abuse problems.
As related to people under the age of twenty-one (21) years of age, these changes in the law: 1) were not stated in the ballot question, 2) restrict the police department from helping people under the age of twenty-one (21), and 3) jeopardizes decades of hard work, education and community-based policing which favors education and early intervention for the benefit of all young residents.
We strongly encourage all in Florham Park to join us in contacting our legislative representatives to advise them of your concerns about this law by using the link or the addresses and phone numbers below:
New Jersey Legislature – Contact your State Representative(s) – Click here.
- Senator Richard Codey – District Office: 651 Old Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Livingston, NJ 07039 (973) 535-5017
- Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (co-sponsor of the Bill) – District Office: 511 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040 (973) 762-1886
- Assemblyman John McKeon – District Office: 221 Main St., Madison, NJ 07940 (973) 377- 1606
A summary of some of the key changes in the law as related to people under the age of twenty-one (21):
- Those under the age of twenty-one (21) will be given a series of written warnings for marijuana and alcohol offenses in lieu of criminal penalties or fines.
- The new law forbids parental notification by police in connection with first marijuana and/or alcohol-related offense. Parental notification is only required for second and subsequent offenses.
- The odor of marijuana, burnt or raw, or alcohol is no longer cause to stop an individual who is under the age of twenty-one (21), nor to search the individual’s personal property or vehicle. As such, in the context of a motor vehicle stop where there is an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, if it is determined that the driver is not under the influence, there is no justification to continue the stop, nor to conduct a search of the vehicle or the occupants, and thus the police must immediately terminate the encounter.