Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Wed, April 21

Put an end to pot prejudice

First let me say nobody should drive when impaired to the slightest degree, let alone work or respond on calls.

At the town meeting in Dolan Springs Mohave County Sheriff (Doug) Schuster said it’s hard to find people who want to work in law enforcement today, and even harder to get people to volunteer. I’m afraid with marijuana legal in Arizona, California and Nevada, it’s going to get a lot harder.

I told Sheriff Schuster I had been a deputy and had been POST certified in two states; that with no resident deputies in Dolan Springs I would like to apply for the sheriff’s posse; and I told him I used medical marijuana. Sheriff Schuster said if I became a member of the sheriff’s posse I couldn’t drive a posse vehicle because of liability.

Marijuana is legal in Arizona for medical and recreational use, yet there’s this prejudice against people who choose marijuana over alcohol, especially in law enforcement. We need to get over it.

With suicide at epidemic levels in law enforcement and almost every officer who commits suicide under the influence of alcohol at the time (and most had a history of alcoholism), maybe it’s time cops had another less harmful alternative.

A study showed police were more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

Numbers released by Blue H.E.L.P. in January of 2020 showed that in 2019, 228 American police officers died by suicide. That research showed an increase from a study done by The Ruderman Family Foundation released in 2018. That study showed that in 2017, while 129 officers died in the line of duty, 140 died by suicide.

With law enforcement’s long history of alcohol abuse, you would think alcohol use especially, before the age of 21, would be the red flag for the academy, not marijuana. POST’s drug policy says: “Arizona POST is concerned with past illegal drug use because it demonstrates a willingness or propensity to do illegal things.”

I would be more concerned with alcohol use before the age of 21 because it demonstrates a willingness or propensity to do illegal things. For young people to obtain alcohol they must steal it, have fake identification, or convince someone who’s 21 to break the law. When young people drink they also make other bad decisions like drinking and driving. All of these “demonstrates a willingness or propensity to do illegal things.”

Arizona Police Officer Standard Training did update their drug policy in October 2020 just before legalization. Now ARS R13-4-105 #10 says “not have illegally possessed or used marijuana for any purpose within the past two years.” I guess “for any purpose” includes if a doctor prescribes it.

Anyone interested in law enforcement who tried marijuana a few times when it became legal in 2020 can’t even apply to be a cop in Arizona until 2023.

Alcohol causes people to make bad decisions. At intelligence meetings in the 1980s, 200 narcotics investigators and undercover officers would come together from all over the state to share intelligence. The people who sold electronic intelligence equipment also shared cases of hard liquor stacked to the ceiling to help with sales. Can anyone see a problem with this?

While I was a deputy I had to fight with more than one drunk while making arrests at bar fights or for DUI. I never had a problem arresting anyone for marijuana possession. I just tossed an Oreo cookie in the back seat and they followed it right in.

But seriously, we need to get over the paranoia about marijuana in law enforcement. Today marijuana is purchased at the mall, not from a drug dealer.

When you compare all the damage done to law enforcement officers, their departments and their families, isn’t it time we gave officers an alternative to alcohol?

(Jay Fleming is a resident of Dolan Springs.)

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