The ongoing debate surrounding whether law enforcement officers in New Jersey are allowed to use cannabis during their off-duty hours has taken a significant turn with recent legal ruling favoring officers partaking in legal marijuana consumption.
A state administrative law judge and the Civil Service Commission recently ruled in favor of a Jersey City police officer who was terminated following her off-duty cannabis use, leading to her reinstatement on the force.
According to the lawsuit, the officer in question, Norhan Mansour, was subjected to a random drug test in September 2022, which revealed the presence of cannabis in her system.
Despite the legality of recreational cannabis in the state, Mansour’s positive test resulted in her termination.
However, subsequent legal proceedings involving the intersection of state and federal laws governing cannabis use vindicated Mansour.
Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss, who presided over the case, argued that there was an conflict between New Jersey’s legalization of cannabis and federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal controlled substance.
In her opinion, Judge Moss wrote that while federal law might prohibit marijuana use, the state is not bound to enforce federal regulations when its own laws, such as the CREAMM Act, direct police departments to adhere to state regulations.
The CREAMM Act, a critical piece of legislation in this context, forbids employers from firing workers solely due to their cannabis consumption, adding a layer of protection for off-duty law enforcement officers.
Judge Moss’ ruling centered on the fact that city authorities failed to present any evidence indicating that Mansour’s lawful off-duty cannabis use adversely affected her job performance.
“There is no proffered evidence that there was ever reasonable suspicion of cannabis use on the job by Mansour, nor were there any purported signs of intoxication, suspected drug use or impairment during work hours,” Moss said in the ruling.
The Civil Service Commission ultimately upheld Judge Moss’ recommendation and ruled on August 2 to reinstate Officer Mansour.
The decision not only marked a victory for Mansour but also awarded her with back pay, benefits and coverage of attorneys’ fees.
The commission’s decision also challenges the stance taken by some local leaders, including Jersey City’s Democratic Mayor Steve Fulop, who has opposed the notion of officers consuming legal cannabis while off duty.
As the debate continues, legal expert Joshua Bauchner, a specialist in civil and cannabis litigation, criticized the city’s actions.
Bauchner, who represents three other Jersey City officers in wrongful termination suits due to the use of cannabis, called the city’s approach “distasteful” and expressed confidence that the city would ultimately lose the case.
He also hoped the matter would go to the state Supreme Court to resolve the controversy.
“There’s no challenge they were impaired on the job, just that they were legally consuming,” Bauchner said, echoing Judge Moss’ conclusion. “I don’t know why Jersey City of all places would be the ones to challenge this.”
In response, Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea told the New Jersey Monitor that federal law bars anyone using cannabis from using firearms. Since New Jersey police officers must carry firearms, this precludes them from also using cannabis.
“Right now, it remains illegal for anyone who uses marijuana to own a firearm,” he said.
He then added that the commission was “telling me to rehire them and to rearm them. By my reading of my federal law, they’re telling me to commit a crime. And they can’t make me commit a crime.”
However, Mansour’s attorney stated that federal law was not applicable to the case, noting that even if an officer lost their federal firearms license, they could still carry a weapon on duty according to state law.