Law enforcement and state officials described the challenges and unfunded mandates surrounding marijuana regulation and youth safety at the Use of Recreational Marijuana Tax Revenue Interim Study Committee. Police Chief John Jackson expressed concern that local police are not adequately trained or equipped to handle the new regulations and increased strain on law enforcement to regulate widespread marijuana use. The increasingly prevalent perception among youth that marijuana is harmless is also a major concern to officials working to keep kids safe in schools, on the road, and at home.
DENVER – A hearing Thursday that was supposed to address revenue issues surrounding legal marijuana in Colorado quickly took a long, strange trip.
Law-enforcement and state officials spoke of abuses to the medical cannabis system and concerns about normalization of the industry.
Police chiefs sounded defeated at times as they outlined unfunded mandates in their Herculean quest to implement experimental regulations governing a budding industry.
“We have done a pathetic job of training our law enforcement in getting out in front of this to the point where we can teach those law-enforcement officers how to do what they need to do,” said an angry Chief John Jackson, head of the Greenwood Village Police Department and president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
He spoke as part of a panel of law-enforcement officers before the Use of Recreational Marijuana Tax Revenue Interim Study Committee, which met for the second time Thursday.
Law-enforcement officials expressed a wide range of concerns, including keeping roads safe from stoned drivers, keeping marijuana out of the hands of youth, organized crime, diversion and unregulated home-grow operations.
“Much of the impact on local law enforcement is still unknown,” said Chief Marco Vasquez, head of the Erie Police Department and a representative of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
But it was Jackson who stole the show, lashing out at lawmakers for having placed a burden on law enforcement to regulate the infantile industry, and questioning why voters would have supported retail cannabis in 2012.
“People will say things like, ‘I voted for this, but I didn’t really vote for this,’” said Jackson. “Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about it. Sometimes, it really makes us squirm when we see those news stories where it just doesn’t seem right.”