Judicial Decree Mandates Reinstatement of New Jersey Officer Terminated Due to Marijuana

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In a decisive ruling, an administrative law judge in New Jersey has once again shaken the stance of Jersey City’s top law enforcement officials. This time, the judge has commanded the reinstatement of a dismissed officer, a consequence of a positive marijuana test, despite the shield of constitutional safeguards offered by the state.

The Jersey City Police Department has vigorously contested the state’s allowance for off-duty employment of cannabis, even among its own officers. The department’s response has manifested in the termination of multiple officers due to the presence of THC metabolites. However, the scales have tipped in an unexpected direction, as two administrative law judges, in addition to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), have issued a countermanding verdict. This ruling reinforces the constitutional protections that were embedded in the fabric of the state’s marijuana legalization statute enacted in 2021.

Consequently, the police department has been handed down a mandate to reinstate Norhan Mansour and Omar Polanco, accompanied by the reimbursement of lost wages. The adjudication of Mansour’s case found resolution through Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss earlier this month. Following suit on the subsequent Friday, Administrative Law Judge Joann Lasala Candido pronounced a parallel judgment in the case of Polanco.

In both of these instances, the city sought to present an argument centered around the federal statute that prohibits the acquisition or possession of firearms for those categorized as “unlawful users” of marijuana. The city contended that this federal provision takes precedence over the state’s legal framework. However, the judges spotlighted a pivotal exception: law enforcement personnel are exempt from this injunction, owing to their eligibility to procure firearms upon completion of training at the Police Academy.

In a quote attributed to Administrative Law Judge Candido, “I concur with the Mansour analysis as presented by ALJ Moss and subsequently endorsed by the Civil Service Commission, wherein the federal law cited by the opposing party in its legal brief does not take precedence over the [legalization law]. This is applicable in the context of police officers within the confines of New Jersey,” as detailed in a report by Jersey City Times.

Jersey City’s Mayor, Steven Fulop (D), who concurrently aspires for the role of governor, has undertaken a vigorous opposition to the policy that grants police officers the prerogative to consume marijuana during their off-duty hours. He declared in April of 2022 that such a policy “has the potential to jeopardize the well-being of our officers and the community, owing to compromised judgment.”

However, from the perspective of the state’s legal landscape, ambiguity is notably absent. The stance of New Jersey’s Attorney General, Matthew Platkin (D), leaves little room for interpretation. Through a memorandum issued in April 2022, he definitively communicated that officers are within their rights to engage in cannabis consumption during their leisure hours. This clarifying directive was subsequently formalized by the codification of updated drug testing protocols for law enforcement earlier this year.

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