The cannabis-reform movement recently scored a win after a New Jersey administrative law judge ruled that another police officer who was fired for marijuana use must be reinstated. Administrative Law Judge Joann Lasala Candido ruled in favor of terminated police officer Omar Polanco last week.
Even though the Jersey City Police Department consented to New Jersey’s off-duty cannabis use policy that allowed even law enforcement to use cannabis during off-duty hours, the police department has fired multiple officers for testing positive for THC metabolites. However, the Civil Service Commission and two administrative law judges have now overruled the department’s decision in line with constitutional protections issued by New Jersey’s 2021 cannabis legalization law.
In addition to Candido’s ruling, earlier this month the state Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss ruled that the police department violated state law by firing officer Norhan Mansour for failing a THC test. Jersey City PD now has orders to reinstate both Mansour and Polanco with backpay, a major blow to both the city’s mayor and police chief.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has expressed opposition to the policy granting cannabis access to marijuana during off-duty hours and said that it would put law enforcement at risk of operating with impaired judgment.
In both Polanco’s and Mansour’s cases, Jersey City argued that federal laws banning “unlawful marijuana users” from possessing or buying firearms preempted the state’s cannabis laws. However, the judges specified that the rule did not apply to police as they could receive firearms after completing police academy training.
Like the two judges, the Civil Service Commission did not buy into the city’s argument, calling it “unpersuasive” and without the support of facts. The commission added that the department’s talking point about the federal ban on firearm purchases for marijuana consumers did not apply to police officers because they don’t have to fill out the federal form asking them to declare their cannabis use before they can obtain a firearm. Furthermore, the commission said that the police department’s actions were unjustified, reversed the termination and approved Norhan Mansour’s appeal.
Mansour’s lawyer Peter Paris likened Jersey City’s actions to firing a police officer for having a beer off-duty, only this case was much worse because New Jersey residents have the constitutional right to consume cannabis.
It is still unclear whether the three other Jersey City law enforcement officers who were terminated for positive THC tests and sued the city police department will have similar positive outcomes. However, these decisions by the courts in New Jersey to assert that police officers can consume marijuana while they aren’t on duty will likely allow members of the armed forces to indulge in state-legal marijuana. As this happens, demand for products sold by licensed entities such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) will grow.
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