Whereas the controversy over New Jersey marijuana legalization has largely change into a query of “will they or won’t they,” legislation enforcement officers are making ready for the almost definitely state of affairs. 

What if “they” do not legalize weed … but a neighboring state does?

Marijuana legalization efforts within the Mid-Atlantic states are at numerous junctures, with each New Jersey and New York seemingly headed in that direction. Whereas New Jersey hasn’t modified its marijuana legal guidelines, the drug has been decriminalized in New York after state legislators did not move a authorized weed invoice this summer time. 

However each race has a loser, resulting in the doubtless state of affairs through which one state will legalize the drug for leisure use whereas the states round it keep the established order. 

If New Jersey legalized weed, it will utterly upend the “equation” that New Jersey cops have been skilled to acknowledge and implement in opposition to, stated State Troopers Fraternal Affiliation President Wayne Blanchard. 

“That is one thing we’re all the time been apprehensive about in New Jersey as a result of it adjustments the complete dynamic, from ‘medicine in, money out’ to ‘money in, medicine out,'” stated Blanchard, whose union represents New Jersey State Cops. 

As an alternative of pot sellers bringing marijuana into New Jersey and promoting it right here, Blanchard imagines sellers utilizing the authorized weed market as their provider, buying the drug legally in New Jersey and promoting it elsewhere.

“It is one thing we’ve got to arrange for. If smuggling strategies change, the legislation enforcement has to vary,” he stated.

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Authorized weed opponents have lengthy pointed to the black market as a purpose why marijuana ought to stay an unlawful drug in New Jersey. In March, black market marijuana sellers instructed the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey that, fairly than placing them out of enterprise, authorized weed would make them even more successful

In a state of affairs the place one state legalizes weed however its neighbors have not, it opens up the chance of a “full stream of unlawful merchandise” crossing state traces, stated Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski. 

The end result? Anticipate to see extra police vehicles on main highways that cross between states, just like the New Jersey Turnpike, the Backyard State Parkway and Interstate 80, Zebrowski stated.

“You may see a rise in detection efforts on these highways that cross into different states,” stated Zebrowksi, a vice chairman with the New Jersey State Affiliation of Chiefs of Police. “I believe you will see an enhanced interdiction effort at these borders.”

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Cops monitoring main highways for drug exercise is nothing new. The identical is true for patrols alongside the state borders. For instance, there’s often an elevated police presence in cities alongside the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border within the lead-up to Independence Day, as New Jerseyans cross the border to purchase fireworks that are legal in Pennsylvania however unlawful in New Jersey.

And in Pennsylvania, police have been recognized to be looking out for Keystone State residents who shopped for big-ticket objects in Delaware to dodge state gross sales taxes.

However a large-scale coverage change similar to marijuana legalization might “stretch” police departments, particularly within the small cities on the New Jersey-New York border, Zebrowski stated. That may inevitably result in value will increase — together with time beyond regulation — as police add a brand new focus space into their routine, he added.

“There must be a whole lot of collaboration with legislation enforcement in New York significantly in among the smaller cities whose assets are already stretched,” Zebrowski stated.

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Of the 4 states within the Mid-Atlantic area, solely New York borders states — Massachusetts and Vermont — which have already legalized weed. However within the years since marijuana grew to become authorized, it hasn’t led to any “operational changes,” New York State Police spokesman Beau Duffy stated in an electronic mail.

“Our troopers proceed to implement New York’s drug legal guidelines as they all the time have,” Duffy stated. 

As an alternative, the State Police have made adjustments behind-the-scenes to arrange for the potential of marijuana legalization in New York. The final two lessons of police canines to graduate from the New York police academy weren’t skilled in marijuana detection.

They are often skilled in particularly figuring out weed at a later date if the marijuana legalization efforts peter out, Duffy stated.

Blanchard stated related discussions about police canines are ongoing all through the state. “What’s extra cost-prohibitive — retraining the exiting Ok-9’s or buying new Ok-9’s?” 

Each Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, have stated they’d wish to take “one last shot” at legalizing weed in New Jersey in the post-Election Day lame duck legislative session. If there nonetheless is not sufficient help to legalize marijuana legislatively, it is going to doubtless change into a poll initiative in 2020. 

Final month, marijuana was officially decriminalized in New York. Legislators had tried to legalize the drug however, as in New Jersey, could not discover sufficient help amongst lawmakers. They’re anticipated to take the difficulty up within the subsequent legislative session.

Soar within the dialog: Join our “Let’s Talk About Marijuana” community on Facebook, where we’ve got great discussions about legal weed (or lack thereof) happening virtually every day. 

Mike Davis writes in regards to the seemingly unending push to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, together with the consequences it will have on the economic system, the black market and common individuals. No, he cannot let you know the place to purchase unlawful medicine. Contact him at 732-643-4223, mdavis@gannettnj.com or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.

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