To the Parents of Washington Township,
On February 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed three laws which legalized cannabis, decriminalized marijuana, and outlined procedures to have previous convictions and/or pending cases dismissed. We were aware of this pending legislation and understand that a majority of New Jersey residents voted to have marijuana legalized in the state. We did not anticipate, however, that this legislation would strongly restrict the ability of police departments in New Jersey to communicate with parents about use of marijuana and alcohol by their children.
We want you, as parents, to know that when our officers encounter juveniles, who are in possession of marijuana and/or alcohol in any public place, including a school, the following restrictions apply:
-The odor of marijuana 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.
-The possession of an alcoholic beverage or marijuana 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.
An individual under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana or alcoholic beverages shall not be arrested, detained, or otherwise taken into custody except to the extent required to issue a written warning.
For an individual under the age of 21 who possesses marijuana or alcoholic beverages as a first offense, this new law forbids officers to contact a parent or guardian.
To apply this to a real-life situation, if an officer sees a juvenile of any age consuming alcohol or smoking marijuana, they will issue a warning but CANNOT contact the juvenile’s parent/guardian on this first offense. As police officers and parents, we are disappointed that these new laws enacted by New Jersey legislators have taken away our ability to communicate with you as parents.
The Washington Township Police Department works hard to build your trust and maintain great relationships with parents and the youth in our community. Our priority is to keep your children safe. We will always continue to do this. We feel obligated to make you aware of how the new legislation may effect our efforts to communicate with you as parents.
Chief Rich Skinner