By: Kaitlyn Kudriavetz, Follow South Jersey Child Welfare Intern
AVALON, N.J. — Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi announced his executive order to close the beach daily between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. and the boardwalk between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. in response to large gatherings and disorderly behavior such as public vandalism and excessive litter.
“The continuance of this order is to provide our local police department with the necessary authority to disperse large groups of individuals who are congregating in unmanageable numbers on public property, which often results in unsafe and disruptive behavior,” Mayor Pagliughi said in a statement. “This unfortunate measure is a direct result of Governor Murphy’s destruction of effective enforcement of laws pertaining to juveniles and the elimination of certain police powers.”
This executive order grants only police and authorized persons access to these public areas during the off-limits hours, effective immediately.
The “destruction of effective enforcement of laws pertaining to juveniles” and “elimination of certain police powers” Mayor Pagliughi is alluding to pertains to the state’s legislation regarding marijuana legalization.
When Governor Phil Murphy signed the legalization of recreational marijuana into law, the bill included a number of changes to police policy regarding the underage use of both cannabis and alcohol. Although marijuana and alcohol are only legal for those aged 21 and older in New Jersey, underage drinking and smoking were effectively decriminalized by the state government.
The odor of marijuana or alcohol no longer constitutes probable cause for the police to search an underage community member’s vehicle – even if they’re holding either substance in plain sight of the officer. Minors do not have to consent to a search of their vehicle if asked to do so by the police.
Additionally, underage community members can also no longer be fined or arrested on marijuana or alcohol charges. Instead, the police have to issue written warnings and/or referrals to local counseling or mentoring programs. These changes, along with added consequences to police officers who get involved in marijuana-related incidents, prompted the New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) to release a statement urging officers not to deal with marijuana-related incidents until they had more information.
“The State is directly responsible for unlawful conduct which compromises public safety,” Mayor Pagliughi said. “From juvenile justice reform, the elimination of bail in many cases to threats of charging police officers with third-degree crimes for investigating potential offenses, the responsibility for the proliferation of this conduct starts where it was authorized: in the hands of the Governor who signs this legislation.”
Although marijuana is now legal statewide, individual towns and municipalities can establish their own ordinances regarding the ownership and operation of recreational marijuana dispensaries along with personal use of the drug. The deadline to establish these ordinances is August 21, but Avalon has already decided to not allow dispensaries or smoking in public for the next five years.
For information from the Avalon Police Department regarding New Jersey’s new regulations surrounding use of cannabis and/or alcohol, check out its FAQ site.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.