JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX11) — Recreational marijuana use is legal in New Jersey. However, federal law prohibits anybody with a history of drug use from owning a gun. Because of that requirement, said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and law enforcement leaders, they’ve filed a lawsuit seeking to ensure that federal law and state law jibe. Some of the people served by Jersey City Police, however, said that the city is wasting its resources.
Fulop explained the city’s legal action at a Tuesday morning news conference.
“We want clearly allowed, in federal rules,” Fulop said from the podium, “that a police officer that consumes cannabis is not permitted to be a police officer.”
Jersey City terminated five police officers, the mayor and Public Safety Commissioner James Shea confirmed, after the officers used marijuana after being warned against doing so.
However, they explained, it was not the marijuana use itself that led to the officers’ dismissal. Instead, said Shea, “We can no longer arm them and provide them with ammunition.”
“They have been terminated,” he continued, “because they can no longer carry a firearm” legally.
To bolster his point, the public safety commissioner also displayed the federal government’s directives that prohibit an active marijuana user from possessing a firearm or ammunition.
That contradicts New Jersey state law, he and Fulop said. That conflict, they added, is what they’re petitioning a federal judge to resolve.
Some Jersey City residents, like Richie Suarez, who said that he’s a recreational cannabis user, said that he feels that New Jersey law should apply to all New Jerseyans, including first responders, like police officers.
“It’s legal,” he said about marijuana use in the Garden State. “It shouldn’t matter. It’s legal.”
The legality has made it possible for businesses like RIPT Dispensary to open. It’s among the first of 40 cannabis businesses for which Jersey City has requested licenses for operation.
RIPT’s general manager, Adam Hernandez, said that his dispensary has a wide variety of customers, including some first responders.
Hernandez said that those customers have indicated to him that marijuana use when they’re off the clock is beneficial to their time on the clock.
“I feel that they deserve the right to go ahead and take cannabis when they’re off duty,” Hernandez said, adding that they’ve indicated that it helps them relax. “You’re home, you’re safe, you’re doing what you have to do, and that’s the best thing for them.”
Commissioner Shea said that the city offered other public safety jobs to the officers that it had fired for marijuana use, and that they all turned down the other positions. One of the dismissed officers, Mayor Fulop said, is petitioning to get her job back. It’s part of the reason, Fulop said, that the city needs a ruling that clearly spells out the federal guidelines, where law enforcement officers are concerned.