Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County Opposed to Legalization of Marijuana
The Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County representing over 31 police departments and over 800 hundred Police officers, Chiefs, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Detectives, Investigators, Dispatchers, and other civilian level police officials, stands in opposition of New York State’s intention to legalize regulated marijuana.
New York State is committed to working to curb opioid addition, overdose and high death rates; it would be counterintuitive to legalize the use of marijuana and expand a public health crisis. As the eastern states currently have the highest overdose rates in the United States, the health implications of legalizing regulated marijuana, including the following public health considerations identified in Colorado following the implementation of regulated marijuana use in that state would negatively impact our local communities.
Unintentional Exposures in Children
- Legal marijuana access is strongly associated with increased numbers of unintentional exposures in children which can lead to hospitalizations.
- A recent study from the American Journal of Pediatrics identified measurable levels of tetrahydrocannabinol in breast milk samples up to 6 days after reported maternal marijuana use².
- Marijuana use may be associated with increased risk of stroke in individuals younger than 55 years of age and acute marijuana use may be associated with increased risk of heart attack among adults.
Marijuana Use and Driving
- Driving soon after using marijuana increases the risk of a motor vehicle crash.
- Daily or near-daily marijuana smoking is strongly associated with chronic bronchitis, including chronic cough, sputum production and wheezing.
Cognitive and Academic Effects
- Weekly or more frequent marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with impaired learning, memory, math and reading achievement, even 28 days after last use.
- Weekly or more frequent marijuana use by adolescents is strongly associated with failure to graduate from high school.
- Daily or near-daily marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia in adulthood.
Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction
Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults – even less-than-weekly use- is associated with future high-risk use of tobacco, and other drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, opioids and methamphetamine.
Aside from the numerous health related issues outlined above, we are also concerned with how legalization will impact public safety, specifically traffic safety. New York has made great strides in lowering traffic fatalities, 2018 being the lowest on record. In comparison, within the first year that regulated marijuana was legalized in Colorado they saw a 62% increase in traffic fatalities.
Roadside interactions with an impaired driver will require an increase in training for patrol officers and the addition of certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), which is a law enforcement officer that has undergone at least two weeks of classroom training and an additional one-week of practical field training. It is anticipated that Orange County law enforcement would have to add several new (DRE’s) to handle the anticipated increase in impaired drivers. Most law enforcement agencies within Orange County have less than 20 members. Without appropriate funding from the State, the financial impact could cripple some municipalities.
Chief Dominick Blasko, President of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County, said, “The legalization of marihuana will definitely have an effect on how law enforcement does business. Additional and ongoing training will be necessary to enhance our ability to detected impaired drivers. We will also have to prepare for the increase in accidents, mental health issues and other quality of life issues that have affected already legalized states.”
In addition to the need for new DRE’s, legalizing regulated marijuana would necessitate the majority of K-9 Police dogs be replaced as they are trained to detect marijuana, and these detection capabilities would no longer be admissible in court. The replacement of all K-9 Police dogs would take approximately 5-7 years and cost thousands of dollars.
Marijuana is currently illegal under Federal law and is classified as a “Schedule 1” drug showing the federal government 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.
NYS 2019 Budget Legislation recently proposed a new regulation which would prohibit law enforcement to co-operate with the Federal Government, in the case of medical marijuana, without a court order. “State and local law enforcement agencies shall not cooperate with or provide assistance to the government of the United States or any agency there in enforcing the federal controlled substances act solely for actions consistent with this chapter, except pursuant to a valid court order.” It is unknown at this time, and as law enforcement continues to fight on the frontline, how this will affect interactions between the Department of Justice and local law enforcement.
We propose, in order to ensure an informed decision, the following measures; bringing all stakeholders together for meetings, studies and dialog; only after this occurs can an educated and informed opinion be made to determine if regulated marijuana should be legalized.
Once again, I must emphasize that the Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County is in opposition to the legalization of regulated marijuana. I urge the State to proceed cautiously, learn from other states that have already suffered the damaging effects of their decisions, before moving forward with legalization in New York State.
¹Monitoring health concerns related to marijuana in Colorado, 2016: changes in marijuana use patterns, systematic literature review, and possible marijuana-related health effects. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee-2017.
²Bertrand KA, Hanan NJ, Honerkamp-Smith G, et al. Marijuana Use by Breastfeeding Mothers and Cannabinoid Concentrations in Breast Milk. Pediatrics. 2018; 142(3):e20181076.
4Volkow, ND, Baler, RD, Compton, WM, et al. Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use. N Engl J Med. 2014; 370:2219-27.
Niki Jones Agency, Inc.