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Recreational Pot Is Now Legal in NJ, But a New Debate Is Raging Over One Group of People Who Can Use It

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

In New Jersey, the sale and use of recreational cannabis are now legal, but a whole new debate has kicked off in the Garden State over who's entitled to toke up. While it's far from the first state to legalize marijuana's recreational use (18 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized cannabis since 2012), the law stands out because it does not prohibit its use among off-duty police officers. 

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis are already taking a stand, vowing to fire any police officer in their respective cities who test positive for marijuana. 

"You can't tell if somebody smoked on the job, an hour before they started the job, eight hours before or a week before," Fulop said, noting that public trust would be jeopardized if an officer tested positive. "Every other state in the country that legalized cannabis had a carve-out that did not allow off-duty police officers to smoke." 

The New Jersey Police Chiefs Association highlighted the problems that would come from officer-involved incidents. 

"We’re very concerned for the officers’ own health and also for public safety, confidence and trust,” said John Zebrowski, the association president, reports Bloomberg, adding that it'd send a "bad message" if officers who had marijuana in their systems were involved in shootings, for example. 

"We live in an age when being a police officer is under scrutiny every day," he continued. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), meanwhile, said during a press conference earlier this month that he's "open-minded to a legislative fix that would address this." 

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