Drug Recognition experts and NJ’s legal weed law DWI

Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

At the Senate hearing Monday night, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) expressed concern that the cost for such training and employment of extra officers would fall on municipalities. The bill would reimburse local costs to train Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to work in communities and would also cover State Police costs to provide DRE training for police officers and drug dogs statewide. It would also set up a task force to investigate the influence of cannabis on the ability to drive.

Even if this bill passes, driving under the influence of cannabis would remain illegal. It is notable, however, that there is currently no reliable roadside system to test levels of THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) in drivers, like a “breathalyzer” for alcohol.

New in this bill is a provision that may make enforcement of other controlled substances a bit muddy for police, however. If an individual is in possession of an item that “appears to be for use, intended for use, or designed for use” with cannabis, that alone doesn’t count for “reasonable suspicion” that the item is drug paraphernalia, even if that item can be used for ingesting other illegal or dangerous substances. The odor of cannabis alone also would no longer be enough to investigate — a rationale that advocates say has long been used to target young men and women of color. However, the presence of an unsealed cannabis package in a car or any container other than the original packaging would be enough to take action in much the same way as an open container of alcohol would be.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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