Recently, New Jersey enacted a law that deals with underage possession of marijuana and alcohol forbidding parents from being informed at the first offense. Under the law, police are legally prohibited from informing parents about their child being caught underage drinking or with marijuana.
The second and third offense allows them to inform the parents, but that assumes the offense occurred in the same town as no central repository of offenses exists. Further, to have an early impact it would mean the child would need to be caught by police early on when intervention is easier.
Growing up, I was fortunate that my great grandmother was a wonderful influence on my life. She was a strong, opinionated and caring individual. We dared not cross her and we knew everything she did was out of love. She became this way despite the challenges she faced in her youth.
When she was two years old her father abandoned the family. He left her mother with four young children on their farm in Freehold because his alcoholism took priority.
I have had other members who have struggled with addiction and it is a horrible disease. I understand like no other that early intervention is key. Intervention that requires the ability for parents to step in and obtain help.
I have always said that the adage “Those can’t do, teach” is hugely offensive and incorrect. The adage in truth is, “Those who can’t do, become politicians.”
It is beyond astounding that our state politicians would enact a law that has the very real ability to lead to generations of individuals to face real addiction issues later in life.
The law is so ill conceived that the politicians counter that “parents will be informed at the second and third instance.” In typical political thought where decisions are made inside a vacuum and where decision makers lack accountability, there was no consideration for the how people would get help or how the police would be enabled to get help for at risk youth.
As well-respected South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka stated in a Tap Into article recently, “There is no central database for juveniles arrested for possession, making it impossible to know if it is a first offense unless it occurred in the same township.”
As a member of our Township Committee for the past 12 years, two-time mayor and two-time deputy mayor, I see firsthand the work put in by the police officers in our town and surrounding towns to help our children grow and become responsible adults. I see the care they take to speak with our kids in school in the hopes of avoiding addiction. I see the pain when they have had to deal with drug addicted individuals and the sadness when we lost a 20-year-old to a heroin overdose a few years ago.
I have witnessed and worked with our Municipal Alliance as they have dedicated thousands of hours to helping our children avoid addiction and focused on prevention/early intervention.
As a parent, it angers me and should anger every other parent in our state to see our politicians instead of maximizing ways to engage all available support structures take the exact counter view and weaken the support structure by making it illegal for a police officer to notify the people that can help the most — the parent.
The views are those of mine alone and do not represent the views of the Township Committee or any affiliated individuals.
Cranbury Township Committeeman