Ignoring the Obvious

New Jersey has legalized recreational marijuana use. Most other states that have done so carved out an exception for police officers. New Jersey did not. New Jersey cops can smoke pot. The same attorneys that support legal pot are set up for a field day. Every pot smoking cop and their agency has just become an ATM for every ambulance chaser in the state.


The problem is the Feds still consider pot possession and ingestion illegal. No, the Feds are not going to swoop down on pot smoking cops. That onus has been shifted to the private sector. The mechanism is called 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(3).

Marijuana users are prohibited from possessing or using firearms and ammunition. In this instance it would include a duty weapon such as a pistol. This would prohibit police departments from issuing pistols, rifles and shotguns to pot using officers. The prohibition would extend to officers who provide their own weapons if the department knew that they used marijuana.

How would a department know? First, cops gossip. It wouldn’t take a lot to separate the users from the non users. Secondly, many departments routinely conduct random drug tests. I suppose those departments could ignore the results. Chances are that they couldn’t disappear the results. Finally, an adverse officer involved act, car accident, shooting (accidental or otherwise) would likely trigger a drug test.

Years ago, an unnamed Sheriff’s office whose mailing address was in San Antonio, Texas experienced a high level of misconduct with newly hired deputies and jailers. While the conduct varied, they all had one thing in common. They all exhibited positive drug tests. Further investigation revealed the following.

In a cost cutting measure the Sheriff’s office stopped using a private lab to do their drug screening for new hires. The adult probation department had a drug screening protocol in place and a lab to support the program. Soon, applicants were being sent to the adult probation office for drug screening. The Sheriff’s office received a report, pass or fail.

As the old saying goes, figures lie and liars’ figure. It turns out that adult probation would have been out of business, had they held to the standard of zero tolerance on drug test All of the probationers would have been candidates for revocation. So, they created an acceptable, to them, standard. Semi-fucked up and a mellow buzz were a passing score for felons and eventually Sheriff’s deputies.

The other thing to consider is that most civil actions and many criminal prosecutions for police misconduct occur in Federal Court. Marijuana is illegal in the Federal forum. Marijuana and guns in the same sentence are pretty much a slam dunk for negligent retention (of the officer) or negligent issuance of equipment (by the agency).

There is a reason that New Jersey toll booths only target those leaving the state. If people had to pay to enter the state nobody would come. On the other hand, no price is too great in order to leave.