Colorado police have challenges with legal pot

Colorado's challenges

ERIE, Colorado (WDTN) - Once pot became legal in Colorado, the job of a police officer became more complex. Their biggest challenge: determining if people are high behind the wheel.

The minute marijuana was legalized in Colorado, law enforcement had to adapt.

"I will tell you I think it is more complex for law enforcement because there is a lot more grey area for officers to contend with," said Erie, CO Police Chief, Marco Vasquez.

Their first task: how to detect marijuana impaired drivers. Chief Marco Vasquez said it's not as easy to spot as those driving drunk.

"We have what they call drug recognition experts and so we've trained up almost 300 in the state of Colorado and those are the people that will come in, they are the experts that will look at the different indicators to try to determine what else they may be impaired with."

Once they have a reasonable amount of evidence they need to test for it. That's where it gets complicated. Right now they rely on voluntary blood tests until the state patrol figures out if an oral fluids test, where saliva is collected, really works.

"Right now we are just doing a pilot program to try to determine are those devices, is that technology effective and reliable enough that we may ultimately be able to use them for prosecutions," said Vasquez.

From a law enforcement perspective, Chief Vasquez believes legalizing marijuana has not been the best move for Colorado. Before, they didn't want the drug in their state, now they need to make sure it doesn't leave. Exporting pot out of Colorado is illegal. Border state Nebraska is even in a court fight with Colorado over the issue.

Vasquez says the "black market" didn't go away either. It just evolved. He believes now the focus of that market is to take the better quality product Colorado makes and sell it out of state

"There are a number of very reputable, good people involved in the industry. It's just when you have so much going on you are going to have those people, who are going to try to make money, because there is a lot of money in marijuana and not everyone that's doing that is going to be following all the rules."

One of the big questions the country has for Colorado..has crime gone up. Chief Vasquez says there's not an easy answer.

"You can't make a direct correlation or link: marijuana legalization, crime has gone up. There are a number of reasons crime goes up and down and it isn't necessarily one factor. "

He said they are seeing more disorderly conduct such as fights starting at malls. He says that behavior can lead to more crime in the future.

Natalie: "It sounds like your job has become more difficult?"
Chief Vasquez: "It certainly hasn't become easier."

Chief Vasquez says another challenge they have is trying to uphold their state constitution where pot is legal and enforcing federal laws where it is still illegal. He says they are still trying to find a balance.

Breaking down Ohio's vote

These following state measures will be on the November 3 ballot.

ISSUE 1: Redistricting, state legislator ballot issue to create a bi-partisan redistricting commission, which would draw state legislative districts

ISSUE 2: Prohibiting a monopoly, state legislator ballot issue to address economic monopolies, particularly as it relates to citizen petitions

ISSUE 3: Legalizing marijuana, citizen ballot issue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use for Ohioans 21-years-old and older.

Issue 2 and Issue 3, sponsored by ResponsibleOhio (RO) directly relate to one another and your vote on each issue will determine whether marijuana will be legalized.

The state sponsored measure takes effect immediately while the question of legalizing marijuana doesn’t take effect for 30 days after the election. This means how you vote on each issue could change the outcome. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s