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Law enforcement critical of marijuana legalization: Leaders say expect more accidents, public safety risks

Law enforcement leaders across the state have voiced concerns about the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In Cayuga County, Sheriff Brian Schenck and Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler say they are concerned about the public safety hazard presented by legalizing marijuana.

In an interview with The Citizen, the duo said that it will increase the number of motor vehicle accidents through impaired driving. To that end, they say that more officers will need to become certified drug recognition experts- because there is no other way to determine if a person is under the influence of a drug like marijuana.

Further complicating matters is the subjectivity that is placed in the hands of these drug recognition experts. While law enforcement relies on them- and have for years- the legalization of marijuana places another burden onto officers that are executing traffic stops or investigating crashes.

Both are hopeful that technology allows more efficient ways to measure impairment in the future. Recently, a Victor company was touted as being an industry leader. It’s working on developing a system to address this very concern.

“It is my opinion that a majority of those who are currently in the throes of addiction or who we unfortunately lost to an overdose began with alcohol and marijuana use,” Chief Butler told The Citizen.

One major change in the law that legalizing marijuana is the component that prevents law enforcement officers from using the ‘small or odor’ of marijuana as cause for searching a vehicle during roadside investigations. Sheriff Schenck told The Citizen that drugs, guns and stolen property were regularly found during those searches.

However, opponents of the searches say it was used as a fallback option for officers that couldn’t find any other cause to search vehicles.