The directive comes five months after the mayor said he had de-prioritized pot arrests.
Jersey City cops received a reminder this week that pot is not legal yet.
In a memo sent Monday by Deputy Police Chief Mark Miller, all police personnel were told they must arrest anyone they suspect of possessing marijuana, even small amounts.
The warning comes five months after Mayor Steve Fulop announced on Twitter that his administration began deprioritizing marijuana arrests at the end of 2017, and as state lawmakers are on the cusp of legalizing recreational weed.
It’s not clear what led Miller to issue the memo, but sources with knowledge of the decision said it came after an officer reported not arresting someone suspected of possessing pot.
“Regardless of what has been reported in the media, sworn personnel are mandated to arrest individuals violating the laws of the state of New Jersey, including simple possession of marijuana,” reads the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Jersey Journal.
Fulop, a Democrat, has publicly supported marijuana legalization, even during a failed attempt to get the City Council to preemptively ban legal marijuana sales citywide. Fulop said he wanted those banned before then deciding which areas of the city should be zoned for sales.
The mayor made a splash in July when he and the city’s municipal prosecutor, Jake Hudnut, announced they would decriminalize pot. State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told them two days later that they could not do so. Grewal then told prosecutors statewide they could use their discretion on pot charges, but that marijuana could not be decriminalized unless the state Legislature decriminalized it.
Asked about Miller’s memo, city spokeswoman Ashley Manz said, “While the JCPD has not prioritized marijuana arrests per the mayor’s direction, the chief was merely pointing out the law has not officially changed yet in Trenton.”
The city has declined to answer when asked what it means that marijuana arrests have not been prioritized.
The state took a big step toward legalization on Monday when state senate and assembly committees advanced a bill that would legalize pot for adult use.
Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said he would not be surprised if some New Jersey cops don’t know whether small amounts of pot are legal.
“There is a ton of confusion right now because we are seemingly on the precipice of legalizing marijuana, because of the attorney general’s guidelines suggesting prosecutors should look into the collateral damage of pot prosecutions and because there are directives that say drug crimes are still crimes and law enforcement have to make arrests when they see someone making a drug crime,” he said.
Sinha said he hopes if state lawmakers do pass legislation legalizing pot, marijuana arrests are immediately suspended, even if the bill includes a time period between passage and legalization.
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