New Jersey legislators have not yet made good on Gov. Phil Murphy's promise to legalize recreational cannabis this year, but even so, local law enforcement is already beginning to prepare for the arrival of legal weed. This Tuesday, newly-appointed Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told the state Senate Budget Committee that he believed legalizing recreational cannabis would pose challenges to state police, and that officials were already taking steps to prepare.
Grewal told the committee that state police officials have already met with law enforcement from canna-legal states to discuss the issues raised by legalization. He said that the state already has 400 officers trained as "drug recognition experts," who have prepped to spot drivers who are under the influence of cannabis or other drugs. Only California has a larger force of drug recognition experts, Grewal said, but New Jersey police are still training an additional 80 experts-to-be.
The attorney general also said that drug-sniffing dogs would also need to be retrained. Currently, these dogs "are trained to alert on drugs," he told the committee, NJ Advance Media reports. "They don't differentiate between marijuana and cocaine, heroin, or whatever it may be, so we have some challenges there."
"On top of all that, something that I find needs to be an important component of all this is education about prevention to our youth," Grewal added. The official noted that whatever form legalization might take, it will certainly prohibit minors from using cannabis. He also added that his "message to children, or high school students and even younger, is don't do any of this… Don't drink. Don't smoke marijuana. Don't smoke cigarettes. Don't smoke any drugs, and don't even experiment with pills."
State Senator Tony Bucco, who runs a adhesives manufacturing company, expressed concerns that it will be more difficult to detect a employee that is stoned at work, compared to an employee that has been drinking on the job. "I have equipment that could be very dangerous and if there's an accident or one of my employees happens to fall into one of the mixing tanks, I'm out of business. I know OSHA will be in and close [me] down," he told the committee, according to WBGO Radio.
While local law enforcement is preparing for the eventuality of legalization, some politicians at the hearing indicated that they were still opposed to the idea of legal marijuana. State Senator Steve Oroho told the committee that "obviously we have the opioid crisis going on, and if we were to legalize marijuana we have another message that to me is inconsistent." A wealth of research has shown, however, that both medical and recreational cannabis are associated with reductions in rates of opioid overdoses and general usage.