This is Part II of a two part article on the topic. The first was published on Saturday, March 6.
Sparta Police Sees Trouble as New Marijuana Laws Decriminalize Underage Drinking too Part I
Community policing has a long history in Sparta.
“The police department’s mission has always included a very strong focus on fostering these positive relationship with our youth of all ages,” Spidaletto said. “Our officers teach in all of our schools and grade levels within township on programs such as LEAD, 911 Education, Not Even Once, Safe and Sober Driver Education, and college and career preparation and more. Our police officers host events such as our Public Safety National Night Out, LEAD Day, our Junior Police Academy, Cocoa/ Coffee with a Cop and provide a strong presence at Sparta Day, Trunk or Treat and many other community events to further our relationships with the entire community, especially our youth.”
The new laws may require a change to some of the processes the Sparta Police Department uses when interacting with youth. They currently have tools that allow for leniency when warranted.
Spidaletto said, “We set the example in assisting the youth that do get into trouble, providing the opportunity to get back on the right track with curbside warnings, station house adjustments and positive options for community service that truly does just that, serves the community.”
The new laws may change all of that. Anyone under the age of 21 seen to be intoxicated, whether from alcohol or cannabis, cannot be put into a police car and driven home. Police cannot call their parents to come pick them up either, unless that person is known to have had a first offense warning.
Grewal advised police to come up with a way to keep track of warnings to people under the age of 21:
- A first offense of a minor being caught with cannabis or alcohol will result in a written warning that includes collection of name, address and birthdate, but police are prohibited from telling parents.
- A second offense results in a similar warning and parents can be notified. Police can also give a copy of the first warning to the parents. Officers will also give the juvenile information on community drug treatment services.
- A third offence again results in warning and parental notification for people under the age of 18. For people ages18 to 21years old a copy of the warning goes to the local community drug treatment program.
No one under 21 can be fingerprinted for these offenses, regardless of how many.
New Cannabis Businesses
- “Cannabis Café” When there are licensed cannabis retailers or in a medical marijuana dispensary, patrons can consume the product in a designated area inside or outside the establishment.
- Cannabis Cultivator- pot farmers must have a Class 1 Cannabis Cultivator license to grow, cultivate or produce, sell and transport. Unlicensed individuals are prohibited from growing, packaging and delivering cannabis.
- Cannabis Grower- same as Cannabis Cultivator or Cannabis Cultivation Facility
- Cannabis Manufacturer – entity with a Class 2 Cannabis Manufacturer’s license for cannabis processing, preparing, packaging and sales to wholesalers and retailers but not consumers.
- Cannabis delivery service- cannabis and “related items” or paraphernalia can be purchased directly from a courier with a “Class 6 Cannabis Deliver license,” for home delivery.
- Cannabis distributor – a Class 4 Cannabis Distributor license is necessary for bulk intrastate transport of cannabis from one licensed cultivator to another.
- Cannabis paraphernalia – equipment or products to plant, grow, cultivate, harvest, compound, manufacture, process, prepare, test, analyze and store as well as for “vaporizing, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introduce into the human body.”
Schools and businesses will still have the right to require sobriety in the hallways and classrooms and cubical. Spidaletto said the Sparta Municipal Alliance, which includes stakeholders from our community as well as police officers, will continue to support healthy initiatives that build confidence and character – as well as a good educational foundation around drug and alcohol awareness and avoidance.
“The Sparta Police will continue to work with our partners at the Center for Prevention, to promote the CLEAR Program, Operation Helping Hand, and the Handle with Care to help those in need,” Spidaletto said.
On March 2, the New Jersey League of Municipalities shared guidance on cannabis legalization, including a sample ordinance for local municipal governments to opt-out of allowing cannabis business within their communities. Twice the Sparta Township Council has approved first readings of similar ordinances, but they did not follow up with a second reading or approval.
The new laws allow municipal governments to adopt Opt-Out ordinances but it must be done by August 21, 2021. After that no change in status can happen for five years according to the new cannabis legalization laws.
No Longer Illegal
- Possession of up to 6 ounces of marijuana,
- Possession of up to 17 grams of hashish
- Being under the influence of marijuana or hashish,
- Failure to properly dispose of marijuana or hashish
- Possession of paraphernalia for marijuana or hashish
- Possession of marijuana or hashish as a motor vehicle operator
Police will not be allowed to detain, arrest or take into custody anyone for simple possession of more than 6 ounces of marijuana or 17 grams of hashish. They can take down personal information and give them a written warning for the first offense. A second offense, as long as police have proof of the first offense, will be a fourth degree crime, according to Grewal.
Dismissal of Prior or Pending Marijuana Charges
Grewal issued a directive on Feb. 22, 2021, as the governor signed the new laws, calling for prosecutors to “dismiss pending marijuana related charges,” including some charges related to possession, distribution or being under the influence of marijuana or hashish, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of [marijuana or hashish] in a vehicle, disorderly person.
Where cases are already resolved, “the Administrative Office of the Courts will vacate…any guilty verdict, plea, placement in a diversionary program” for conduct prior to Feb. 22, 2021.
Related convictions, remaining sentences, ongoing supervision or court ordered fines will be vacated for anyone in jail, on probation or other community supervision.
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