Jersey City Sues State Over Policy Allowing Police to Use Cannabis Off-Duty

The public safety director for Jersey City, New Jersey has filed a federal lawsuit against the state for allowing police officers to consume cannabis while off duty.

Full story after the jump.

The Jersey City, New Jersey public safety director on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state in federal court for its move to allow police to consume cannabis while off duty, the New Jersey Monitor reports. In April, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin issued a memo saying that it is acceptable for police in the state to use cannabis off-the-clock, but noted in the memo that “there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession, or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer” and “zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty.”

In the lawsuit filed by Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea on behalf of the city, Shea argues that because federal law prohibits anyone who uses a federally controlled substance from possessing a firearm, Jersey City cannot employ police officers who consume cannabis. The lawsuit names Platkin as a defendant.

The lawsuit contends that “police officers in New Jersey are required to possess and receive firearms in order to fulfill their duties as law enforcement officers” and when lawmakers passed the cannabis legalization law they “failed to address the impact of the federal firearm laws on the use of regulated marijuana/cannabis in New Jersey for persons who are required to possess and/or receive firearms or ammunitions as part of the job duties, including police officers in Jersey City.” 

“Every citizen in the state of New Jersey has the right to use marijuana. If one of our officers wants to do that, they could smoke as much as they want – they can no longer perform the duties of a police officer, and we will have to terminate them if we become aware.” — Shea via New Jersey Monitor 

The lawsuit comes two months after the state Civil Service Commission determined that Jersey City must rehire a police officer it had fired after she failed a drug test for cannabis, the report says. The commission based its decision on the state’s legalization law which prohibits employers from firing someone who consumes cannabis off-the-clock. At least three other officers fired for the same reason have also challenged the terminations and are named as defendants in the lawsuit. 

Shea said the commission is “refusing to acknowledge the conflict between the federal law and the state law” and that the legalization law violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from overriding federal statutes.  

“We all agree that they smoked, they utilized marijuana, cannabis, or THC. We all agree that they would need to carry a firearm to be police officers,” he told reporters. “So it should be as simple as a judge clarifying the supremacy clause.” 

The lawsuit also names the Civil Service Commission as a defendant and seeks to prevent the body from requiring the city to “employ or reinstate to employment any individual who is an unlawful user of any controlled substance, including marijuana/cannabis where such person is required to possess and/or receive a firearm or ammunition as part of his or her job duties.” 

Get daily cannabis business news updates. Subscribe

Have an additional perspective to share? Send us a message to let us know, and if your comment is chosen by our editors it could be featured here.


Latest Cannabis News

View all news Get email updates

Create a profile View all categories

From Our Partners