New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

The post New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed appeared first on High Times.

New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Sederberg wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

The post New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed appeared first on High Times.

Visa Cracks Down On Cannabis Dispensary ‘Cashless ATM’ Transactions

Credit card powerhouse Visa is cracking down on “cashless ATM” transactions processed by cannabis dispensaries and other retailers, saying the popular workaround for credit and debit card payments is prohibited and subject to unspecified penalties.

In a compliance memo sent this month to banks that process payment card transactions for merchants, Visa, the world’s second-largest payment card processing company, noted that it is “aware of a scheme” in which point-of-sale (POS) terminals known as cashless ATMs are used to process purchases. Instead of processing the sale as a purchase, however, the merchant codes the transaction as an ATM withdrawal.

“Cashless ATMs are POS devices driven by payment applications that mimic standalone ATMs. However, no cash disbursements are made to cardholders,” the December 2 memo obtained by Marijuana Moment explains. “Instead, the devices are used for purchase transactions, which are miscoded as ATM cash disbursements. Purchase amounts are often rounded up to create the appearance of a cash disbursement.”

Federal Banking Laws Pose Challenges for Cannabis Businesses

Due to federal banking and money laundering laws that leave traditional financial services largely unavailable to legal cannabis businesses, many marijuana dispensaries utilize the cashless ATM solution to accept credit and debit cards as payment for customers’ purchases. Instead of requiring customers to pay by cash, retailers who utilize the cashless ATM process can offer the convenience of accepting payment cards at the cash register. The option is also more secure for dispensaries than handling large amounts of cash, which puts them at greater risk of armed robbery and other crime.

Although Visa did not specifically mention cannabis dispensaries, the memo noted that cashless ATMs “are primarily marketed to merchant types that are unable to obtain payment services—whether due to the Visa Rules, the rules of other networks, or legal or regulatory prohibitions.”

Visa warned that miscoding POS purchases as ATM withdrawals violates requirements that all transactions processed through the company’s networks contain accurate data. Visa also noted that processing transactions with inaccurate information such as a misidentified merchant or incorrect business location is also prohibited. Although Visa was not specific about the repercussions of processing illegitimate cashless ATM withdrawals, the company noted that such transactions “will be subject to non-compliance assessments and/or penalties” or “subject to further compliance enforcement.”

Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, says that it “is unfortunate that Visa is unwilling to work with the cannabis industry, which is legal in dozens of states and represents billions of dollars in economic activity, at a time when this country needs all the financial options it can use.”

But it is even worse that they are trying to discourage alternative solutions that are primarily utilized by small businesses to protect themselves and their customers from theft and violent crime,” Fox told Marijuana Moment.

“The announcement amounts to intimidation,” Fox added, “and will directly put cannabis businesses at even greater risk that could cost lives.”

Christian Sederberg, founding partner with the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, said that licensed cannabis companies “continue to lack consistent and affordable access to the basic financial services that other businesses enjoy.”  

“They are doing everything they can to ensure transactions are taking place safely and legally, but they keep running into these problems due to the illegal status of cannabis under federal law,” Sederberg wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. “Unfortunately, it is smaller businesses and social equity applicants who are at the greatest disadvantage.”

Cannabis Industry Seeks Congressional Help

To address the challenges accessing financial services faced by cannabis businesses, the industry has long sought a legislative solution from federal lawmakers. Under the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, federal banking regulators would be prohibited from penalizing banks that choose to serve cannabis firms doing business in compliance with state law. The legislation was initially introduced in the House of Representatives in 2013 by Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, who has reintroduced the bill each subsequent congressional cycle.

The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House of Representatives in 2019 and again last year as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation. The House passed the bill again in April of this year as a standalone bill and included the measure in this year’s defense authorization bill, but the version of the legislation passed by the Senate this week does not include the cannabis banking provisions.

Tom DiGiovanni, the chief financial officer for California vertically integrated cannabis company Harborside Inc., noted that a lack of access to traditional financial services has led the cannabis industry to create innovative workarounds for banking and payments. But often, the solutions are less secure for both businesses and customers.

“More credible fintech solutions than the ‘cashless ATM’ that have hit the market have been a step in the right direction, but this does not lessen the urgency of the need for the government to intervene and address the dire situation of cannabis banking,” DiGiovanni wrote in an email. “As we’ve seen in our hometown of Oakland, businesses like ours are at constant risk for burglary or shutdown (as Visa is suggesting) until a solution like the SAFE Banking Act is passed.”

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