March 28, 2021
Anyone under the age of 18 in New Jersey who violates the state's cannabis and alcohol possession rules for the first time will no longer be able to hide the offense from their parents or guardians.
Law enforcement officials are now required to provide a written notice to parents or legal guardians of children who are caught buying or possessing marijuana and alcohol for the first time, according to a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Under New Jersey's adult-use cannabis law that was enacted last month by Murphy, police officers were already mandated to notify parents of children who were caught multiple times. Families were also required to be provided with information on how to access community-based services.
The most-recent legislation, which passed both houses of the New Jersey state legislature with bipartisan support, is intended to further discourage the use of alcohol and marijuana by underage residents.
Among the bill's four primary sponsors in the Assembly was Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). The legislation had six primary sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden).
“With this new law, we address the many concerns for the lack of parental notification of underage drinking and cannabis use under the cannabis legalization bill recently signed into law," the Assembly co-sponsors said in a statement.
"Parents and guardians should be notified of a child’s interaction and their potential harm through the use of alcohol and cannabis. These substances are not meant for children. Diligent notification to their parents will allow for intervention and resources to be employed to help stop underage substance abuse early.”
“Parental involvement is not only a right, it is a responsibility,” Addiego said in a statement.
“It’s a matter of good judgement and common sense that parents are quickly informed if their child is caught breaking the law by drinking or using marijuana before they reach the legal age. Parental intervention at the first offense will help make sure it doesn’t happen again. We want the first offense to be the only offense.”
New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana only for adult-use in February after Murphy signed three bills into law to officially jumpstart the state's cannabis industry.
However, the legalization came following a lengthy back-and-forth in the state legislature and more than three months after residents voted in favor of the change on a ballot referendum. New Jersey is one of 13 states to decriminalize cannabis for adults ages 21 and over.
About two-thirds of New Jersey residents voted in favor of marijuana legalization on the ballot referendum in last November's election. The referendum followed failed legislative efforts over the past few years.