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Police raises concern as pot legalization looks more likely

Some Connecticut state legislators are working to legalize marijuana for recreational use in our state. Currently, it's legal only for medicinal purposes. Eight states as well as Washington, D.C. have thus far legalized recreational marijuana, including our neighbors in Massachusetts.

Although a bill sponsored by a New Haven representative died in committee last year, members of both the Senate and House from both major political parties have introduced bills in the current session to legalize recreational pot.

According to a 2015 poll, nearly two-third of our state's voters believe that adults shouldn't need a doctor's authorization to obtain marijuana legally.

State law enforcement officials, however, are not as receptive to the idea of legalization. The head of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association points to law enforcement issues that other states have experienced.

One primary concern for those in law enforcement as marijuana has become more widely legalized, and echoed by Connecticut officials, is the ability to positively detect the presence of marijuana and other drugs in drivers who are pulled over. At this point, there's no equivalent of a Breathalyzer to detect marijuana, even if there were specific limits in place.

More Connecticut officers are being trained to be Drug Recognition Experts. However, without a tool to measure the level of drugs in the system during a traffic stop, it's difficult to prove that a person was driving under the influence in court.

Another concern voiced by police here in Connecticut and elsewhere is the potential for traffic injuries and deaths as marijuana becomes easier to access. Sometimes drivers don't realize just how potent the marijuana they've ingested is (particularly in the case of edibles) until they're behind the wheel. Of course, by then, they may not have the judgment or capacity to pull over.

While it may be difficult to prove to a court and/or jury that someone was driving while high, some drivers incriminate themselves by admitting to officers that they recently used pot. That's why it's essential not to volunteer information to an officer who pulls you over. Of course, if your judgment is impaired by pot, that's easier said than done. The best thing to do is not underestimate the power of the marijuana that's on the market now and stay off the roads after smoking or consuming it.

Source: New Haven Register, "Bills calling for marijuana legalization in Connecticut have police chiefs concerned," Juliemar Ortiz, Jan. 07, 2017

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