Prop 64: Would Recreational Pot Legalization Really Ease Pressure On Police?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Denver, Colorado gets 300 days of sunshine a year, but neighboring Greenwood Village Colorado Police Chief John Jackson says there is a dark cloud hanging over the state.

“What people are saying is, I voted for it, but I didn’t vote for that,” said Jackson.

He says problems, known and unknown, about marijuana legalization are coming to light.

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana three years ago, specific laws have changed. Possession of one ounce of marijuana is legal. Marijuana, smoked or ingested, cannot be used in public. And driving while drugged is not be allowed.

PROP 64: What Can California Learn From Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization Law?

The same would be true in California if Proposition 64 passes.

“We did not know what those challenges were when this legalization started,” said Jackson.

Jackson, who’s a former head of the Colorado Police Chief’s Association, says marijuana edibles create an unknown. He says people walk the streets snacking on marijuana-infused items.

“The ability to identify who is consuming what is almost impossible now,” said Jackson.

Driving while drugged is another challenge.

Right now there is no field test for marijuana, and people respond differently to different amounts of THC – which is the psychoactive ingredient in pot.

“We have to take them to the hospital for a blood test,” said Jackson.

According to Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal group, marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado spiked by an average of 48 percent in the years following legalization in cars, on the streets and in schools.

“They bring it, share it, give it away,” said Suzanne Beckstrom with the Greenwood Village Police Department.

In 18 years working as a school resource officer, Beckstrom says marijuana products are everywhere.

“It comes in different forms on different days, but it’s definitely more widely available in the schools,” said Beckstrom.

While Beckstrom says she’s seeing more products, use may not follow the same trend. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, teen use in the last 30 days has stayed relatively the same since legalization at about 21 percent, currently on pace with the national average.

Adult use is slightly up.

“That demand is being met by a legitimate market of licensed businesses instead of cartels and criminals,” said Mason Tvert with Colorado Marijuana Policy Project.

His group sees a sizable community benefit to legalization.

“There is no more marijuana market and that means there is fewer people out there who might be selling other illegal products,” said Tvert.

He and other supporters say police can spend their enforcement resources elsewhere.

“Their time has been freed up where they are no longer chasing around adults possessing marijuana,” said Brian Vicente.

He helped write the marijuana law in Colorado and says a changing world needs a changing view.

“They’re a law enforcement mindset that I don’t think has caught up to the forward thinking population,” said Vicente.

Still, law enforcement says legalization has only made their jobs harder.

“These home grows are out of control in all parts of the state,” said Jackson.

Each adult can legally have six plants in their home. Jackson says people abuse the system by growing, shipping and selling out of state illegally.

“So there is a great financial incentive to grow your own marijuana,” said Jackson.

Californians would also be able to grow six plants per adult at home.

“Every home can be a pot farm,” said Carla Lowe, with California’s Citizens Against Legalization of Marijuana. “We’re extremely concerned.”

Legalization supporters, including Nate Bradley from the California Cannabis Industry Association, says the marijuana flood gates are broken.

“We’re not opening the doors to marijuana, the market is already there,” said Bradley.

In Wednesday’s story, we’ll take a look at the business boom in Colorado and the financial impact recreational marijuana could have in California.

More from Drew Bollea

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