Friday, March 15, 2019

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Orange County police chiefs oppose legalizing recreational marijuana

GOSHEN – The Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County announced its opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana. The proposal is under consideration in Albany and may be included in the state budget, which must be adopted by the end of this month.

Given the opioid crisis, “it would be counterintuitive to legalize the use of marijuana and expand a public health crisis,” the organization stated.

The police group said aside from the many health related issued should marijuana use be legalized, it would also impact public safety, specifically traffic safety.

The chiefs’ group said roadside interaction with an impaired driver would require an increase in training for patrol officers and the addition of certified drug recognition experts, who are law enforcement officers who undergo at least two weeks of classroom training and an another week of practical field training.

Orange County law enforcement would have to add several new officers to handle the anticipated increase in impaired drivers. “Without appropriate funding from the state, the financial impact could cripple some municipalities,” the chief group stated.

Chiefs association president, Crawford Chief Dominick Blasko, said legalizing marijuana “will definitely have an effect on how law enforcement does business.” He said in addition to ongoing new training needed to enhance their ability to detect impaired drivers, police will also have to prepare for an increase in accidents, mental health issues and other quality of life concerns that have already affected states in which marijuana has been legalized.

Blasko noted marijuana is currently illegal under federal law and is classified as a “schedule 1” drug indicating Washington views cannabis as a highly addictive and controlled substance. “As police officers, we are sworn to protect the public as well as enforce federal, state and municipal laws,” he said.

Language in the proposed state budget that would include legalizing pot, who prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with the federal government, as is the case with medical marijuana, without a court order.” Blasko said it is unknown how that would affect interactions between local police and the Department of Justice.

Blasko said the chiefs’ association is recommending before any decision is made, to bring all stakeholders together for meetings, studies and dialogue. “Only after this occurs can an educated and informed opinion be made to determine if regulated marijuana should be legalized,” he said.

 


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