New Jersey cops can no longer be tested for cannabis unless they are caught actually getting blazed on duty, according to new guidance issued by the state's top prosecutor.
The state's revised Law Enforcement Drug Testing Policy, which was just released this week, blocks police departments from forcing officers to take random or pre-employment THC tests in most situations. Cops are still prohibited from getting high at work or possessing pot while on duty, but the new rules will allow most officers to get as stoned as they want while they are off the clock.
Several existing restrictions will remain in effect, though. The new policy still requires agencies to “undertake drug testing when there is reasonable suspicion to believe a law enforcement officer is engaged in the illegal use of a controlled dangerous substance, or is under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, including unregulated marijuana, or cannabis during work hours.”
Police departments can also require THC tests in cases where there is a “reasonable suspicion of the officer’s use of a cannabis item while engaged in the performance of the officer’s duties” or if there are “observable signs of intoxication related to the use of a cannabis item while engaged in the performance of the officer’s duties.” Officers who are assigned to a federal task force can also be forced to take THC tests as well, since the feds continue to prohibit all cannabis use.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin originally announced that police were covered under the state's cannabis workplace protections policy last April, just days before the Garden State greenlit its first adult-use sales. In a memo issued to all state and local police departments, Platkin explained that law enforcement agencies are barred from taking any adverse actions against officers who choose to get blazed in their free time.
But although the off-duty pot exception for officers has technically been on the books for nearly a year, the state didn't actually revise its drug testing policies until this week. The reason for the delay was never officially disclosed, but a recent social media post by the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association suggests that it took several months for them to negotiate the new drug testing agreements with the state.
New Jersey's decision to grant police the right to legally use cannabis has received some serious pushback, though. Several Republican lawmakers wrote Platkin a letter urging him to reverse the decision. Politicians argued that the off-duty pot exemption violates a federal law that bars cannabis users from owning guns. That law only applies to civilians, though, and not law enforcement officers. And earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that this gun ownership restriction violates medical cannabis users' constitutional right to bear arms.
For now, it looks like the policy will remain in place. The Democratic-majority state legislature, which spearheaded the state's adult-use law in 2021, supports the decision to allow cops to get high while off-duty. Governor Phil Murphy said he is open to changing the policy, but suggested that he will follow lawmakers' lead on that decision.
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