Legalized marijuana is throwing a learning curve at Northwest Arkansas’ criminal justice system.
Police must be trained to determine whether a driver is impaired by his medical marijuana use. Courts must adjust zero-tolerance policies to account for legal use. And some worry about how to stop illicit sales.
Relax, said Morgan Fox, the senior communications manager for Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.
The law enforcement community has had more than 20 years nationally to adjust to the idea of medical marijuana, and officers in 29 states now have varying degrees of experience with their own medical marijuana programs.
“There may be some slight difficulty getting accustomed to the idea of not arresting a person found with marijuana, and it will take some time for departments to get up to speed with regulations so that they can accurately determine if patients and producers are in compliance,” Fox said.
“However, this is simply a matter of training. At the end of the day, it will mean fewer marijuana arrests and allow them to focus on more serious crimes.”
Scott Chipman disagreed. The Southern California chairman for Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana said medical marijuana put police in a tough and frustrating position.
Legalization for medical marijuana in California was touted as a means to give police a break from going after nonviolent offenders, but police must work to eliminate the illegal sale of marijuana while regulating the legal market, he said.
Medical marijuana has been available in California for 20 years, and the drug will be legally available for recreational use in 2018, Chipman said.
Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment in November legalizing medical marijuana use. The state plans to start taking license applications for