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N.J. lawmakers pass bill to notify parents of child’s first marijuana, alcohol offense

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

New Jersey lawmakers continued to tinker with the state’s budding marijuana laws Thursday, passing a bill that would allow police to notify the parents or legal guardians of a child under 18 who was caught with cannabis or alcohol for the first time.

State law previously barred law enforcement officers from telling parents about their child’s first offense.

“I’m pleased we came to our senses today to correct this law,” said Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, R-Morris. “As a mother of three children, it was unfathomable to me to think that we’d remove parents from the equation when there’s interactions with the police.”

When Gov. Phil Murphy signed three laws establishing New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market in February, one of them dealt with penalties for underage possession.

In that law, people under 21 found with marijuana or alcohol for the first time would be issued a written warning, but police would not be permitted to notify their parents until the second offense.

The law was a compromise between Murphy, who wanted penalties for underage possession, and some Black and Latino lawmakers who feared it would increase police interactions with young people of color. But the lack of parental notification angered many Republicans and even some Democrats who said it went too far.

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