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New Jersey’s second largest city is challenging a statewide policy that allows police officers to use cannabis while off duty.
In an 18-page complaint filed Oct. 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Jersey City officials argue that the city cannot employ officers who use legal cannabis because federal law prevents anyone who uses a controlled substance from possessing a firearm.
The lawsuit is asking the court to declare that the federal law preempts New Jersey’s cannabis laws, as well as the policies of state Attorney General Matthew Platkin, who has told law enforcement leaders that employers cannot take adverse action for marijuana use off duty unless there is suspicion an officer went to work impaired.
It also seeks to block the state from forcing Jersey City to reinstate police officers who were terminated in connection with cannabis usage.
Of the five officers Jersey City has fired after positive THC tests, the state Civil Service Commission told the city in August it must rehire two of them as well as provide back pay. While the city reportedly offered them public safety jobs that did not require a firearm, both declined the new positions, according to Jersey City’s public safety director James Shea.
During an Oct. 17 press conference at the city’s public safety headquarters, Shea was joined by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – a 2025 gubernatorial candidate – to announce the federal lawsuit, saying that, despite the city’s “repeated attempts,” the state “continues to avoid addressing the root cause of this very serious issue.”
“The Civil Service Commission and judges have all recognized the conflict, but refuse to provide much-needed guidance as to how local governments can comply with the clashing laws,” they said.