A new drug testing policy issued by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin creates a different set of rules for police than for the ordinary citizen. This is a theme that has played out in the state of New Jersey for decades.
The new policy, rolled out in February of 2023, begins with feel-good language about protecting the public and upholding the integrity of law enforcement:
“As the chief law enforcement officer of the State, the Attrney General is duty bound to ensure that the citizens of New Jersey receive police services from law enforcement officers whose competency and integrity are beyond question. The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that the illegal use of drugs by individual law enforcement officers does not undermine the integrity of law enforcement agencies or threaten the safety and morale of other law enforcement officers.”
However, on page 14, the state’s drug testing policy exempts officers from marijuana/cannabis testing, stating they shall only be tested when:
“The officer is assigned to a federal task force; the officer holds a federally regulated license, which requires testing (e.g. pilot or commercial driver’s license); the law enforcement agency is specifically required to test by the terms of a federal contract or federal grant, or as outlined in the reasonable suspicion sections…herein.
The latitude extended to police officers in the liberal policy is far beyond that which would be afforded the ordinary citizen, especially if involved in a defensive shooting. Citizens involved in a self-defense shooting are nearly always required to undergo a full toxicology test that would include cannabis.
The policy also states, “The goal of the policy is deterring illegal drug use, including unregulated marijuana, by law enforcement officers.” There is, however, no mechanism in the policy to identify ‘unregulated’ marijuana, nor a way to test for it and distinguish it from regulated substances.
The acknowledgement that marijuana use can impair judgment is affirmed in the state’s recently passed laws concerning concealed carry of firearms for law-abiding citizens. According to N.J.S.2C:58-4:
Not only is marijuana still illegal federally, but there is a federal law that bars those using illegal drugs from owning a firearm.
In April of 2022, shortly after controlled cannabis sales became legal in the State of New Jersey (which incidentally makes the state one of the largest drug dealers in the nation), Attorney General Matthew Platkin issued a state-wide memo to police chiefs allowing off-duty possession and use of cannabis for officers and protecting them against discipline for the same.
The AG cited the equal protections clause in allowing officers to enjoy the same privileges as the general public. However, the new policy was not enthusiastically endorsed by the skeptical public for obvious reasons. After all, unlike alcohol, which is usually metabolized by the body within a day or so, THC – the primary compound in cannabis – can stay in the body for close to a month, and everyone reacts slightly differently to it. Also, there is no standardized testing for marijuana.
Unsurprisingly, the directive from AG Platkin received widespread criticism, and some departments ignored the policy statement. As reported by Politico, Jersey City Mayor, Steve Fulop, upheld the no-usage policy in a series of Tweets, and further pointed out how the state’s new policy contradicted federal policy:
“The fact is that all of the officers/recruits attest to the federal govt DFJ + ATF paperwork when they receive their firearms that they will not use any federal prohibited drugs including marijuana. NJ’s policies allowing law enforcement to smoke is an outlier nationally and one that will put our officers + community at risk with impaired judgment.”
The new policy puts New Jersey at odds with federal law, and continues to create a two-tier system of rights and protections that favor law enforcement over the average citizen.