2018 could be a game changer when it comes to drug legalization, especially marijuana. In states like Washington and Colorado, the drug is already legal. A survey carried out indicated that 58% of the American population is advocating for its legalization. Colorado was the first state to decriminalize the drug, by lowering penalties and establishing ways to mitigate and discourage heavy use. Among the reasons that people consider for its legalization are:-
- It can be used for medicinal purposes and to alleviate pain, especially in cancer patients.
- People consider it a safer drug than other legal drugs.
- Legalizing it will save on the already scarce law enforcement resources. Furthermore, it’s considered a new stream of tax revenue as sales will be regulated.
- Creation of employment opportunities is considered as a prime benefit for marijuana legalization. Bringing it as a cash crop under the law will create opportunities in a formal economy rather than an illegal market.
What effects does the legalization have on law enforcers?
Lack of appropriate DUI testing machines
Unlike alcohol where law enforcement officers make use of the breathalyzer to test the driver’s level of intoxication, there is no such device to establish the extent of marijuana intoxication. In most cases, mouth swipes are used, a method that only tests for the active THC compound and not residual THC. It does not immediately establish whether the driver is too intoxicated to drive. If he tests positive to THC he has to be taken in for further blood tests. Chances of establishing how impaired the driver are from blood tests are slim, as THC leaves the body within six hours after ingestion. Law enforcers claim that this method of testing is more suitable for the detection of cocaine and amphetamines than it is suited for marijuana tests.
Increase in road carnages
This only increases the level of road accidents which law enforcement officers have to deal with. This has led to a significant increase in traffic deaths. Case in point is Colorado which documented a total of 55 traffic deaths in 2013, a number that escalated to 125 in 2016. Furthermore, the figure of drivers that tested positive for THC rose from 18 to a staggering 77.
A strained law enforcement workforce
Colorado is already experiencing higher levels of vagrancy due to homelessness as more people migrate to the area due to ease of access. This is straining the already strained law enforcers. Crime rates are bound to increase as marijuana is a gateway to other drugs. Not all marijuana dealers have the necessary licenses to run their businesses and the police officers have to impound the illegal dealers. Legalizing marijuana is not only draining to the officers where it is legalized, but to the neighboring states where this is not yet legal.
The need for more funding
Legalizing marijuana requires an overhaul of the police sector as they need to be trained and educated appropriately. They need to be trained on how to monitor, test, vet, document, as well as prosecute offenders who exceed the recommended recreational quantity. Gears needed to carry out marijuana also need to be purchased. Funds are already constrained and additional expenses are overwhelming. There is also a need to bring on board drug recognition experts in cases where drivers are suspected to be driving under marijuana influence.
The black market is not expected to cease altogether
Legalizing the drug will result in its higher purchase price as dealers have to factor in tax costs. This prompts users to seek a black market alternative, which is still illegal and whose price beats the legal one.
With all the above issues, it is no wonder that law enforcement officers feel like they have been pushed to the wall. Additionally, its legalization has impacted a mixed message to the youth who had all along been sensitized about its long and short-term effects. Law enforcers and health educators are struggling not to look like they are vilifying marijuana use or its legalization, but are worried about the outcome this legalization might have on the society. In as much as it should be accessible to persons over 21 years, no one can tell how many underage users obtain it.