By Thomas A. Arnone
I am making this statement on behalf of myself and the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners.
The majority of New Jersey residents last fall voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for use by adults at least 21 years of age. There is no question, nor debate, on the outcome of the ballot question.
However, New Jersey residents were not aware at the time of their vote that this would eventually lead to what we witnessed this week – the New Jersey Legislature voting to make law enforcement officers “guilty of a crime” if they notify parents of children under the age of 18 that their child was caught with marijuana, and also alcohol, on the first offense.
In typical Trenton fashion, the Legislature put on a cloak and dagger performance, leaving this new bill to be voted on, passed and signed into law with less than one hour left before the legalization of marijuana was scheduled to become law.
I find it truly disturbing and discouraging that legislation with such serious implications for law enforcement officers and families was passed with little to no discussion.
By passing this new law, the Legislature is sweeping aside the judgment of parents over the lives of their children and is tying law enforcement’s hands with respect to keeping kids and communities safe.
As a result of this law, our law enforcement officers will be “guilty of a crime” if they notify parents that an underage child is using or is in possession of marijuana or alcohol on their first offense. Only if the child is found again using or in possession can a law enforcement officer notify the child’s parents.
Not only does this keep parents in the dark about what may be happening in their child’s life, it also shows children there are no major consequences if they are found using marijuana or alcohol for the first time.
Parents should have the right to know if their child is using or in possession of marijuana from the first encounter and be given the chance to discuss its consequences before it potentially becomes a larger issue.
This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a matter of right and wrong.
Thomas A. Arnone is the director of the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners.