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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy signals support for earlier parental notifications for underage marijuana

By Nikita Biryukov, March 08 2021 2:36 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said he supported allowing police to notify parents about their children’s underage marijuana use on the first offense, paving a path to law for a marijuana cleanup bill introduced last week.

“Without getting too much into the weeds, no pun intended, on the notification question, I personally think that’s a step in the right direction,” Murphy said at Monday’s virus briefing.

The proposal, sponsored by State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and first reported by the New Jersey Globe, would change the state’s system of graduated warnings for underage marijuana and alcohol offenses to allow authorities to notify parents about their children’s infractions starting on the first offense, instead of the second.

Under bills signed into law late last month, police are limited to issuing a written warning on the first such offense. The second introduces parental notifications, and the third involves referrals to community organizations and drug treatment.

The new bill is expected to move easily through both chambers of the legislature. While negotiations over marijuana legalization dragged on for months as multiple parties sought an agreement, there aren’t quite so many moving parts here.

And while Republicans broadly opposed the legalization bill and another measure establishing penalties for underage marijuana use, many of their number have railed against the prohibition on parental notifications.

“It is rare to see the governor and the Democratic majority reverse course on a bad policy,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said. “They made a huge mistake when they prohibited police from telling parents when their kids were caught with marijuana or alcohol. I am encouraged by recent reports that the majority is considering a repeal of this law.”

It’s not clear when the bill will move in the Senate or the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold).

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