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Mayors and police chiefs along the Jersey Shore say the state's new marijuana law could lead to a summer of crime and delinquency unless Gov. Phil Murphy signs a proposed to change to the recent legislation.

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Under the law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in February, someone younger than 21 caught with any amount of marijuana, cannabis, hashish or alcohol in any public place, including a school, gets a written warning for a first offense. That warning must include the person’s name, address and date of birth. But it will not be sent or provided to a parent or guardian.

Officers are not supposed to ask a minor about possession, even if certain substances are in plain sight.

“While those in New Jersey voted to legalize cannabis for adults, Trenton has taken the extraordinary leap to pass a law that goes far beyond the voter mandate to include (the) de facto legalization of marijuana and alcohol for children,” Point Pleasant Beach police Chief Joseph Michigan said Saturday during a news conference on the boardwalk.

The president of the Ocean County Police Chiefs Association said the new law will render law enforcement powerless to investigate the use and abuse of marijuana and alcohol by kids.

"This legislation turns our kids into innocent collateral damage in the quest for social justice in New Jersey. It's wrong, it's indefensible and it must be fixed now," Michigan said.

Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra said that if current law is not changed, this summer will be worse than the summer of 2020's 300% increase in violations governing restricted beach hours, loud noise, alcohol in glass containers, smoking and profane language.

"I personally watched my officers get taunted, screamed at and spit on. This is the environment that's being created,"  Kanitra said Saturday.

"Now comes this latest hot piece of garbage out of the Statehouse that will certainly continue the trend. The irony is that the thing that these kids need the most is simply parental discipline. If that natural parental right is taken away by our legislators, we're going to be dealing with the most emboldened and aggressive crowd we've ever dealt with in our history this summer," Kanitra said.

State Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, said that legislators who voted for the bill knew what it contained.

"This is a disgusting piece of legislation. The voters did not vote that we should have 12-year-olds drinking beer, smoking marijuana and nothing can be done about it," Singer said.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, and Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, introduced legislation that would change the law, including removing the provision that charges officers with a third-degree crime for violating the law.

"Even if we amended the law to allow appropriate parental notification, the third-degree criminal charge hanging over officers’ heads is enough to discourage anyone from investigating underage possession complaints altogether," O'Scanlon said.

Murphy said at his March 8 coronavirus briefing that he would potentially support the proposed measure.

"I personally think that's a step in the right direction," Murphy said.

Previous reporting by Dino Flammia was used in this report.

Assemblyman John Catalano speaks about the new marijuana law in Point Pleasant Beach
Assemblyman John Catalano speaks about the new marijuana law in Point Pleasant Beach (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)

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