NEW JERSEY - The fight is intensifying over whether police officers in New Jersey should be allowed to use marijuana while they're off duty. The state allows it but some lawmakers are introducing a series of new bills to forbid cops from using cannabis.
"We formally have requested that our state Legislature carve out an exclusion for safety-sensitive employees — in particular, law enforcement officers," said John Zebrowski, the president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. Zebrowski, who is the chief of police of Sayreville, and the more than 500 active police chiefs he represents want New Jersey to ban every cop and many other first-responders from using pot while off-duty.
"It can be metabolized over 28 days and that creates an awful lot of issues for us to manage," Zebrowski said.
The lack of a cannabis version of a breathalyzer test or the establishment of a legal level of highness also creates issues for policing members of the public who might smoke and then drive.
"Certainly it's much more important when you're talking about someone that obviously has the responsibilities of a police officer and is carrying a firearm," Zebrowski said.
The state attorney general issued a general guidance the week before legal recreational sales began in New Jersey reminding law enforcement executives that it was illegal to fire an officer for using marijuana in their free time.
"We were somewhat surprised with the timing of the attorney general's guidance," Zebrowski said.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said he is open to the state Legislature tweaking the current law to allow law enforcement agencies in the state to "deal with this that they felt was appropriate for their community."
A bill in the Assembly authored by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald proposes a ban on off-duty cops getting high. (Greenwald did not respond to FOX 5 NY's request for comment.)
"We're hopeful that next week the Senate will have another version that is similar to that," Zebrowski said.
The Senate president — the lead sponsor for legalization — has said he opposes any exemption, calling it a "slippery slope."
"What we're asking for in this exclusion is not unusual," Zebrowski said. "In fact, New Jersey's the outlier."
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has said he will ignore the current version of the state law and fire any cop who tests positive for weed. The mayors of Kearney and Weehawken have indicated their municipalities will do the same. (Neither was available for comment on Friday.)
Newark's City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging their mayor to also forbid cops from using cannabis. (Every member of the City Council was either unavailable, did not respond, or declined to comment.)
"We are hopeful that we can get it done quickly," Zebrowski said.