TRENTON – Twelve Republican state senators have written to acting Attorney General Matt Platkin expressing concerns that state law and advice allow for off-duty police officers to use recreational marijuana.

Sales of marijuana to any adult are now legal at 13 dispensaries around New Jersey. In advance of Thursday’s expansion of legal cannabis, Platkin said in a memo last week police departments shouldn’t take action against officers who fail a drug test unless a drug recognition expert says they’re intoxicated.

In the letter, the senators say the memo fails to consider that marijuana users are prohibited by the federal government from buying or possessing guns. Jersey City cited the same concern in prohibiting marijuana use by off-duty officers, in conflict with Platkin’s memo.

“We write to you now to express our deep concern with the advice provided in the memorandum and to ask that you help to mitigate some of the harm it will undoubtedly cause,” said the letter, which was led by Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho, R-Sussex.

“Though we strongly question the wisdom of encouraging officers to use marijuana while off-duty, we are most troubled by the inevitable consequences of this policy for municipal and county governments, which go beyond the potential loss of federal contracts or funding,” they wrote.

The senators suggested that Platkin take any action within his power to protect police departments from liability in lawsuits filed in connection with the actions of officers who test positive for marijuana, traces of which remain in a person’s system long after they are no longer intoxicated.

“Those agencies will be at greater risk of liability for the actions of officers who test positive for marijuana following any incident involving the death or injury of a member of the public or any other person,” they wrote. “Even when such claims are dismissed for lack of merit, they may be extremely costly. Unfortunately, it is the taxpayers who ultimately bear the brunt of those costs.”

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There are 16 Republicans in the state Senate. The letter was signed by all but four of them: Jon Bramnick, R-Union; Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris; Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic; and Jean Stanfield, R-Burlington.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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