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Police chief criticizes cannabis laws

Chief Robert Geisler said the new law will hamper the ability to address underage consumption

Geisler took issue with the new laws that prevent police from contacting parents for the first offense of underage possession or consumption of alcohol or cannabis.

Bayonne Chief of Police Robert Geisler has criticized aspects of the new cannabis laws.

“On February 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act and the marijuana decriminalization laws,” Geisler said. “It is important for all parents in our community to know that these new laws will severely impair the ability of law enforcement to surveil and police the illegal drug market. It will also hamper our ability to address the issue of underage possession and consumption of alcohol and marijuana with some parents and guardians.”

Parents in the dark

Geisler cites the part of the law regarding individuals under the age of 21 who possess or consume any amount of cannabis or alcohol “in any public place, including a school.”

For the first offense, officers will issue a written warning, but the warning will not be provided to the individual’s parent or guardian.

For the second offense, officers will issue a written warning, and also provide the person with materials on community drug treatment services. For those under 18, the officer will provide the individual’s parent or guardian with copies of warnings for both the first and second offenses.

For the third offense, officers will issue a written warning and again provide the individual with information on community drug treatment services. If the person is between 18 and 21, the officer will provide notice of the written warning to the community drug treatment program. If the person is under 18, the officer will again provide the juvenile’s parent or guardian with a copy of the written warning.

According to Geisler, when a student under age of 21 is in possession of cannabis in any school, the officer may issue a written warning. If that student is in possession of more than six ounces, it is a crime and that student can be charged.

An individual under age 21 who possesses cannabis or alcohol will not be arrested, restrained or taken into custody except to the extent required to issue a written warning. Geisler said that if an officer encounters a juvenile of any age consuming alcohol or smoking cannabis, the officer will issue a warning but cannot contact the juvenile’s parent or guardian on the first offense.

Hampering communication

“As a law enforcement officer and as a parent I am disappointed that these new laws have taken away and hampered our ability to communicate with you as parents,” Geisler said. “I am left to wonder; if information on drug treatment services, as noted in the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent offense scenarios, would even be necessary if officers were allowed to notify parents upon the 1st offense. Notification to parents upon the 1st offense would allow parents to take corrective actions and hopefully prevent the need for drug treatment services.”

Geisler said it is important to know that there is currently no statewide database to track these interactions with juveniles. There could be instances where an officer in Bayonne encounters an individual under 21, possessing or consuming marijuana or alcohol, which the officer believes is a first offense, and no notification is made to a parent or guardian, but in reality, that individual has had one or more interactions with other law enforcement agencies outside Bayonne that the officer is unaware of.

“This lack of data hampers our ability to communicate with parents in certain circumstances where we may be allowed to do so,” Geisler said. “There is also no statewide standardized warning form for law enforcement to utilize in these instances.”

He continued: “Our priority is to keep our youth and all of our community safe. We will continue to do so within the confines of these new laws.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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