Date: January 26, 2024Attorney: Joshua S. Bauchner

As a part of Law360’s cases to watch in 2024, one case in particular talks about when New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana. This simultaneously enacted protections under state law to prevent employers from penalizing workers for off-duty cannabis use. However, this move has posed challenges for Jersey City, the state’s second-largest city, in navigating conflicting federal laws prohibiting firearm possession for certain controlled substance users.

Citing the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which bars individuals using Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition, New Jersey initiated a legal battle in federal court to resolve the discrepancy.

Jersey City authorities confirmed the termination of five police officers who tested positive for marijuana, prompting appeals to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. While two officers were reinstated, the appeals of three others are still pending.

The city’s legal actions have stirred controversy, with some questioning the underlying motivations. Two officers initially fired and then reinstated due to positive drug tests, alleged political bias in Jersey City’s policy.

Joshua S. Bauchner, Chair of the Cannabis, Hemp, and Psychedelics Practice Group at Mandelbaum Barrett PC, condemned Jersey City’s actions as hypocritical. Bauchner highlighted the inconsistency in relying on DRE evidence for road-side sobriety checks while claiming it can’t evaluate officers’ impairment when reporting for duty. According to Bauchner, this undermines the credibility of both the city and its police force.

Check out Law360’s New Jersey Cases to Watch In 2024, here.

The ongoing legal dispute is detailed in the case Shea et al v. State of New Jersey et al., filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (case number 2:23-cv-21196).