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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Marijuana legalization presents new challenges for New Jersey police departments

Five days ago, it became legal for adults to buy marijuana in New Jersey. But legalization does not mean that it is free for everyone when it comes to consuming cannabis.

“You can’t have marijuana in the car,” says John Zybrowski, Police Chief of Saerville.

Zibrowski says that driving and consuming cannabis can lead to a driving disability if a police officer stops it.

“Our officers have been taught to see signs and be able to take tests to see if someone has a disability,” Zibrowski says. “These tests of vulnerability are very similar, if not identical, to alcohol.”

Those who leave the dispensary with their products may be tempted to use it right away. The suggestion is that clients wait until they get home or some other special place. A poor driving fee could mean a suspended license or points on the driver’s record.

Regular cannabis users outside ZenLeaf in Elizabeth say they are well aware of the rules.

“If you’re driving, you can’t smoke and drive for at least four to five hours after consumption,” says Marquis Maples, of Rahway.

But not everyone knew that taking marijuana out of the state is against federal law. This can be a problem for residents of Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania who come to New Jersey to purchase recreational marijuana.

“You’re really putting yourself at risk because now you’re dealing with federal laws instead of state laws,” Zibrowski says.

Zibrowski says he’s particularly concerned about beginners who may not be aware of how effective marijuana is or how it is metabolized in the body.

“We don’t want to see a slight increase in emergency room visits because someone has swallowed so much,” he says.

He says that’s why the Surrey Police Department focuses more on education than enforcement when it comes to legal cannabis.

Law enforcement officials also say they monitor so-called “marijuana pop-up stores” — storefronts that sell marijuana without a license. They say this was prevalent in Canada.

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