Jun 23, 2016

Police should weigh in on marijuana now, Colorado chief says

The big mistake made by the Colorado law enforcement community in the run-up to the state’s legalization of marijuana was to stay on the sidelines of the debate, a Denver-area police chief says.

“We didn’t engage, because we didn’t think it would pass,” Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson recently warned a group of police, elected officials and others from around Wyoming.

“And now,” Jackson said of Colorado's situation, “We have a free-for-all.”

Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson
The chief spoke at a June 6 “Marijuana Summit” in Cody, co-sponsored by the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, the Park County Coalition Against Substance Abuse and the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.

The summit — focused largely on the potential dangers and harms of marijuana — came in the midst of a national and statewide debate about how the substance should be regulated. The group Wyoming NORML planned to put a medical marijuana initiative before Wyoming voters this year, but has since pushed the effort back to 2018; meanwhile, the Wyoming Legislature continues to debate various marijuana-related bills each year.

Chief Jackson, one of five speakers at the summit, urged Wyoming's law enforcement community to weigh in on legalization sooner rather than later.

“Educate your constituents on what you now know,” he said, adding, “You can turn the conversation into, ‘we know this will happen.’”

Taxes on marijuana sales brought $996 million into Colorado’s coffers last year, but Jackson said to “forget about the money.”

“Do not become some intoxicated with the revenues that you lose sight of the social costs,” he said, adding, “Everybody wants to talk about the millions — now $1 billion (in new taxes) — but nobody’s talking about what it costs for the increase in homelessness, for the increase in law enforcement, doing things that aren’t anticipated.”

Jackson spoke of new challenges for police that include increased difficulty in detecting impaired drivers. (The smell of marijuana on a traffic stop no longer constitutes probable cause for a search, he noted.)

“Everybody wants to talk about the millions — now $1 billion (in new taxes) — but nobody’s talking about what it costs for the increase in homelessness, for the increase in law enforcement, doing things that aren’t anticipated,” Jackson warned.

He acknowledged that arrests in Colorado have dropped in the wake of legalization, but suggested that’s in part because “your law enforcement’s confused and doesn’t even care any more” given the complicated and contradictory mix of federal and state laws.

Further, while white people in particular are being arrested less frequently, people of color are now making up higher percentages of those arrested, Jackson said of post-legalization data collected in Colorado.

“These are huge indicators where your law enforcement is still making inappropriate choices,” he said.

Jackson cautioned summit attendees about going up against the “marijuana lobby,” saying they “will run you over and you can NOT outspend them.” He instead suggested to “do your own thing that works for you” and take law enforcement’s message to voters.

As he wrapped up his remarks, Jackson encouraged Wyoming's police to “continue the fight, because it is right, it is worth it, it is needed, and people are looking at you to do the right thing.”

Summit attendees included representatives from the Powell and Cody police departments, the Park County Sheriff's Office, the National Park Service, legislators, educators, mental health professionals, religious leaders, a federal prosecutor, and other interested citizens, said Charlotte Carlton of the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming.

2 comments:

Copyright © Cody News Company | Powered by Blogger

Design by Anders Noren | Blogger Theme by NewBloggerThemes.com