Why do you care what I do off the clock?

Illustration by Jaida Noble | A officer off duty relaxing after a long stressful work day.

Could New Jersey be the state that helps bring change to federal laws when it comes to marijuana?

On April 21, New Jersey legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in the state, as reported by NBC New York. While the legalization of recreational marijuana is nothing new, the acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin issued a memo to police chiefs and directors reminding them “that the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law 14 months ago says departments “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” 

As many would assume there is backlash to this memo including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop who stated that if an officer uses marijuana even off duty it would result in termination. In Fulop’s Twitter feed on the topic, he says, “NJ’s policies allowing law enforcement to smoke is an outlier nationally and one that will put our officers + community at risk with impaired judgment.” 

Fulop does have a point that New Jersey would become an outlier nationally, if New Jersey does allow their police to use marijuana off duty it could lead to major changes. 

Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). To fall under Schedule I the drug is defined as “…drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some other drugs that are in the same category as marijuana are heroin, LSD, ecstasy and methaqualone. 

This means that the federal government sees marijuana specifically THC or tetrahydrocannabinol as a higher potential for abuse than cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, and fentanyl which are all Schedule II drugs that are defined as “…drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”

Why do federal jobs care so much about what their workers are doing on their time-off? People are able to drink alcohol during their off-time and walk into work hungover the next day, does this not impair your judgment? Why is this acceptable but smoking marijuana off duty is not? 

Marijuana’s effects can last from 2 to 8 hours as stated by Healthline, and many users use it to help them sleep. Dr. Matt Roman, a medical marijuana physician states “Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle.” Depending on when someone starts using it and when they have to get up the high is over, so they are not feeling the effects of the marijuana when they start work. 

The issue with marijuana is that it (THC) can stay in someone’s system for up to a month, compared to cocaine which can last two days in blood or saliva and three days in urine  according to the American Addiction Centers website. Just because marijuana stays in your system for up to a month does not mean the individual is still high; the THC molecule stays in fatty cells, which takes time to naturally get out of your system stated by Healthline. 

If anything, federal workers should be able to use CBD products in their off-time, but there is still a risk of using CBD because there are small traces of THC in those products. If there is enough THC within the CBD products and taking into account how often the product is used a person could test positive on a test due to the amount of THC which is what drug tests are testing for.

Based on a report by Conrad Weaver from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 18-24% of dispatchers and 35% of police suffer from PTSD. Many medicate with alcohol or other abusive behaviors in order to cope with the stress and trauma they encounter daily. How are these numbers, and knowing many medicate with alcohol and other substances, not putting the community at risk?

An article from Veterans of Foreign Wars says “Over the course of a year, the study found that cannabis users reported a greater decrease in the severity of their PTSD symptoms. They also were more than 2.5 times as likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD as those who did not use cannabis.” 

If it is known to help with PTSD which has symptoms of high anxiety and sleep issues and 35% of police suffer from it then why limit them to something that will help them sleep better which in turn would help improve their work because they are getting undisturbed sleep? 

What people do during their off-time should not interfere with the work that they do, even if they are a federal worker, especially when it comes to marijuana. As long as they are not coming to work high and are able to do their work, why limit them from doing something that is not as dangerous as other drugs that are on the DEA list?

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