Home>Highlight>New parental notification bill would bar police from taking underage users into custody

State Sen. Vin Gopal. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

New parental notification bill would bar police from taking underage users into custody

Measure has exemptions if violators refuse to give information needed for warnings but blanket bans detainment at police stations

By Nikita Biryukov, March 15 2021 4:18 pm

Lawmakers won’t advance a bill introduced earlier this month that would move parental notifications for underage marijuana and alcohol users to the first offense, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Instead, they’ll advance a substantively similar measure that also bars police from taking underage users into custody unless it’s needed to gather information for a written warning or parental notification, a source close to Democratic leadership in the Senate told the New Jersey Globe.

In all cases, the bill bans police from taking those under the age of 21 to a police station or other police facility, though they may be confined to a squad car or at the scene if an underage user refuses to give information needed for a written warning or parental notification, the source said.

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), the bill’s sponsor, said it will see a vote in Assembly and Senate sessions slated for March 25.

“I have spoken to the Senate president, and we will have a bill to correct parental notifications, and it will be on second reading and be posted on the 25th,” Gopal said, referring to its movement through his chamber. “I’ve also spent many hours these last two weeks speaking to members of the Black and Latino Caucuses and addressing these concerns, and I believe this bill will address their concerns.”

Lawmakers could have amended the bill to include the changes, but that would have necessitated a committee hearing or an emergency floor vote. While it will see a committee hearing in the Assembly on Wednesday, it’ll be moved directly to second reading in the upper chamber.

With senators already fatigued from months of marijuana talks, there was little appetite for another potentially protracted committee hearing on cannabis.

The bill could be amended on the floor, but lawmakers would need an emergency to pass it on the same day. While Republicans appear to support the bill — a number of them, including Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, have introduced similar measures on parental notifications — there’s always a chance of complications.

Under a set of bills signed last month, underage marijuana and alcohol users are subject to a system of graduated warnings. On the first offense, they get a written warning. On the second, they are issued a second warning and have their parents notified.

The third sees them referred to community and treatment services.

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