Jersey City sues state over off-duty police cannabis consumption
The topic of cannabis consumption for off-duty first responders is a hot one, especially in New Jersey. For the last year, Jersey City has been in a battle with some of its former police officers who were fired for testing positive for cannabis. This week, it escalated into a lawsuit filed against the state by the city.
Mayor Steve Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea announced the lawsuit at a press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 17th. The lawsuit infers that since possessing a firearm is federally illegal under the influence of a Schedule I substance, the state is forcing the city to commit a federal felony by reinstating officers fired for off-duty cannabis consumption. It also seeks the right to punish future officers for cannabis consumption.
The story started when New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin released a memo dictating that police shouldn’t be penalized for popping a gummy or toking on a joint off the clock following cannabis legalization in the state. Jersey City Mayor Fulop has been against the memo since it hit the wire, speaking publicly about his belief that cops should never get high.
Jersey City sent a notice to its police officers that cannabis was still off the table after the memo was issued. Officer Norhan Mansour tested positive for cannabis, a plant that notoriously stays in the system long after the effects have worn off, and was fired. Four other officers suffered the same fate, but Mansour is the first to watch her employment fate play out in court.
She was reinstated after a court ruling in August but had yet to return to active duty by September. At that time, Fulop promised that an appeal to her reinstatement was in the world, and the other shoe just dropped.
When speaking on why he hopes to bar police from off-duty consumption, Fulop often cites liability. He asserts that if there was an officer-involved shooting and an officer tested positive for cannabis, the city would be liable for that loss. This is possibly true since it is hard to precisely detect when someone consumed based on current drug testing technology.
The lawsuit hinges on the plant remaining Schedule I as the HHS reclassification suggestion is still looming over the DEA without comment. Law enforcement has been trained for generations to treat cannabis as a drug and people who possess it as criminals. This training can’t be completely erased by the passing of a law.
It will take time for culture, training, protocol, and simple mindsets to shift in relation to the plant. The fight in New Jersey is a sign that times could slowly be changing, but it probably won’t come easy.