For those of you who are readers of The Montclair Local “Letters to The Editor” section, I’m sure you are aware of my professional opinion relative to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Two years ago, I wrote a series of letters attempting to explain the pitfalls of our legislators' crafting of the bill legalizing recreational cannabis, and predicted a number of the controversaries existing today — i.e use by cops, air ine pilots, heavy equipment operators, train engineers and so on, eroding public safety and public trust.

The New Jersey state attorney general, our chief law enforcement officer, Matt Platkin, recently issued a directive to all chiefs and directors of public cafety that nothing in New Jersey’s new cannabis laws forbid police officers from smoking marijuana while they are off-duty, and that they cannot be disciplined.

What the attorney general failed to realize that once a cop raises his or her hand taking the oath of office, he or she is a police officer 24-7. I’m hoping we can agree that someone who carries a gun and has to make life-or-death decisions should avoid falling under the influence of a mind-altering drug.

So if a cop uses his gun or is in a high-speed chase (as recently enacted) that ends in a tragedy, think about the liability risk. Lawyers will have a field day in instituting lawsuits and will ask whether they were impaired or not.

I know some of my critics are going to equate alcohol with marijuana, stating "What is the difference?" A person who has a drink or two knows his or her tolerance, and there is a test to determine when alcohol is in one’s system. However it’s the uncertainty with marijuana, as there is no test that tells us that you used marijuana and are impaired, or whether you used it three hours ago or three days ago.

The bottom line is we must have a concern for our children, as all those people you see waiting in line for hour upon hour to make their purchases are the same people we have to worry about as they get into their cars and create a higher rate of impaired drivers on our roadways.

We must be vigilant in preventing our children from gaining access to it. Public safety must come first.

Thomas J. Russo
Former Montclair chief of police and director of public safety

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