SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ – The Seaside Heights borough council and Mayor Anthony Vaz have announced their support for NJ Senate Bill 3454 which is aimed at correcting major flaws in Governor Phil Murphy’s marijuana legalization bill.
Under Murphy’s law, which legalized marijuana, one caveat in the bill is that police officers will be effectively powerless to enforce underage drinking, underage marijuana use, and the smoking of marijuana in public places that have existing tobacco smoking bans.
As it stands now, a police officer can only issue a minor caught with alcohol and marijuana a warning and worse, they cannot tell the minor’s parents or detain the minors.
Worse, police officers can be fined and charged for violating a person’s constitutional rights when it comes to enforcing the existing marijuana law, which could set the Jersey Shore up to be America’s largest seaside pot party this summer.
Beach towns are not happy with that prospect as they struggle each year to maintain their reputations as family-friendly vacation resorts.
One such town that has had a difficult time upholding that image is Seaside Heights. Known primarily as an MTV-themed party town after decades of partnership with the network for shows such as Jersey Shore and its once-thriving nightclub scene, the community is trying to turn that page.
Murphy’s marijuana bill could derail that effort.
“Borough Council tonight adopted [a] resolution urging the State Legislature to immediately repeal Senate Bill No. 3454 (P.L. c 25),” Mayor Anthony Vaz said. “Senate Bill No. 3454 was passed with little to no discussion, no public transparency, and no public debate. By passing Senate Bill No. 3454, the Legislature and Governor Phil Murphy ignored the judgment of parents over the lives of their children.”
Seaside Heights bans the smoking of tobacco and the public consumption of alcohol on its boardwalks and beaches, but under the existing law, they would be powerless against stopping the open smoking of marijuana.
Essentially, you can be fined and charged for drinking beer or smoking a cigarette, but not a joint at beaches and boardwalks such as Seaside. Whether or not cops would risk their jobs issuing a summons for public smoking of marijuana knowing their job could be on the line is a deterrence to enforcing the beach and boardwalk smoking bans.
Police officers would risk becoming criminals if they tried to enforce the no-smoking policies set by beachfront communities.
“Furthermore, by passing Senate Bill No. 3454, the Legislature and Governor Phil Murphy criminalized the good faith actions of law enforcement officers,” Vaz added. “It is clear to Borough Council that our elected leaders in Trenton could have legalized recreational use of marijuana in accordance with the will of The People expressed at the November 2020 election without turning enforcement of the law upside down and without making criminals of police officers.”
Under the bill, Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense, and shall, in the case of an adult under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages, be fined not less than $250.
The bill would also prohibit the public smoking of marijuana by anyone under the age of 21 and allow police officers to issue fines and in the cases of minors, inform their parents on the citations.
“Senate Bill No. 3454, one of three bills signed into law by Governor Murphy to implement the legalization of marijuana, goes too far and must be urgently repealed,” Vaz said. “Please call your State Legislators and the Governor’s Office to request their support in fixing this very awful piece of legislation.”