Law enforcement raise concerns over new cannabis bill

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(ABC 6 News) – Some people believe that legalizing recreational cannabis will make less work for law enforcement, but others say that’s not the case.

Thursday, the omnibus cannabis bill was heard in the house education finance and policy committee. There, lawmakers debated aspects of the bill, like educating kids about marijuana.

The bill passed that committee. Which is the ninth committee to do so. But there’s a long way to go, and a lot more committees to go.

Many law enforcement officials have been speaking out against legalizing cannabis, including Olmsted County Sheriff, Kevin Torgerson. One of his concerns, there’s no efficient way to detect if a driver is under the influence of marijuana.

“You know DRE can come, Drug Recognition Expert and do that thing and say yep that person is impaired, or this person is under the influence. But with marijuana like any other drug say how much is in their system,” said Sheriff Torgerson.

According to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that in states where it has been legalized accidents have gone up like in Colorado where they have seen a nearly 18 percent increase.

Sheriff Torgerson says law enforcement needs more time to figure out how they would enforce this. And Senator Carla Nelson agrees.

“Until there is that field sobriety test it would be extremely dangerous for all public safety,” said Senator Nelson.

But those for the bill like Representative Zack Stephenson say, “some enforcement issues cities will have under this bill there’s a whole slew of enforcement issues that they will no longer have when this bill passes because cannabis will at large will no longer be illegal.”

Another issue law enforcement would have to deal with if marijuana is legalized, police K-9s. They are trained to sniff out drugs, including marijuana.

“Anybody that has a drug detecting k-9 that is marijuana trained is going to be retired,” said Torgerson.

You can’t untrain a dog to sniff out marijuana according to Sheriff Torgerson. Out of the eight k-9’s with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office two are marijuana trained.

“Suddenly these very valuable assets need to be replaced,” said Senator Nelson.

“That’s 40 thousand dollars just at the starting point to get two k-9’s back up to speed,” said Sheriff Torgerson.

And he’s not sure where that money would come from.

“Small counties small cities, first of all don’t have those DRE’s have K-9’s available to them and what are they gonna do,” said Sheriff Torgerson.

With the bill passing the Education Finance and Policy Committee it is now being referred to the Health Finance and Policy Committee. And with a democratic controlled house and senate this bill is expected to pass.