A new law in New Jersey is sparking criticism from parents and police officers throughout the state, as the bill restricts law enforcement from notifying the parents of minors who are caught with possession of marijuana or alcohol.
The law, signed in February by Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy, allows people to carry up to 6 ounces of marijuana. It also prohibits police officers from notifying parents when their child is caught by law enforcement with marijuana or alcohol for the child’s first incident. After the first reported incident, officers can relay the information back to parents.
However, police note that there is not a way to confirm if a minor has any prior incidents reported.
"There is no data system that allows for the warnings to be memorialized, and then go to a centralized data bank. There’s no way to track this," Sayerville Township Chief of Police John Zebrowski told Fox News.
Republican Sen.-elect Holly Schepisi agreed, saying: "The only way a parent would get notified is pretty much if a police officer in the same community picks up the same kid multiple times."
"If your 12-year-old child got caught smoking pot and drinking a six-pack in your local park, the local police have no ability to do anything and are prohibited from notifying a minor's parents," Schepisi explained, expressing her frustration with the bill.
Zebrowski reflected on the process an officer would take prior to Murphy signing this bill. "You would take possession of the contraband, there would be a notification to that child’s parents, and there would be a sit-down discussion afterward as to how we can assist, what programs would be available, and usually something called a stationhouse paperwork would be completed memorializing the interaction," he explained. This has all changed since the bill was signed on Feb. 22.
A former three-time White House drug adviser to presidents Clinton, Barack Obama and George Bush, Kevin Sabet is one of the people concerned about this law.
"We know that marijuana has a potential to reduce your IQ by 8 points," he said. "I’m really worried about how this is going to affect not only the physical health, not only the academic achievement, because we also see lower test scores and more dropout rates among marijuana-using kids."
Sabet, Schepisi and Zebrowski are only three of the many people who share a great concern about the children throughout the state of New Jersey due to the implications of this bill.
"We haven’t seen any state that doesn’t have parent notification for minors," said Sabet, who has implemented drug policy for more than two decades.
Agreeing with the concern, State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, proposed a new bill regarding how police can notify parents of underage substance possession. Since the rise in concern, Murphy spoke out Monday, saying: "I personally think that’s a step in the right direction… I support that direction."
It's not only Republicans who have spoken out about this. Since voting "yes," state Sen. Vin Gopal, a Democrat representing Monmouth County, has also proposed legislation in regard to this bill.
When pressed about her Democrat colleagues changing their tone, Schepisi said: "I think that they will only do it if they believe it to be politically expedient, and not because they actually care. If they actually cared they would’ve never voted on it to begin with."
The bill has not yet reached the governor's desk, but he indicated support for the measure earlier this week. "I personally think that's a step in the right direction, and so we'll see where that goes. It's not on my desk, that's not even through the Chamber's yet, it's got a ways to go. But, as a conceptual matter, I'll put it that way, I support that direction," Murphy said Monday.