Colorado marijuana law worries Cheyenne police chief

2013-09-05T08:30:00Z Colorado marijuana law worries Cheyenne police chiefBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
September 05, 2013 8:30 am  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The impact on Cheyenne of Colorado's new law allowing the recreational use of marijuana isn’t known yet because the neighboring state is still working on rules to govern sales, the city's police chief says.

However, Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak made clear Tuesday night he doesn't expect the impact to be beneficial for law enforcement or the community.

Kozak said law enforcement officers in Colorado currently are not arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But they are arresting people for driving under the influence of marijuana if they are impaired.

He noted that heavier use of marijuana in Colorado is keeping federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents busy with postal interdictions or the interception of marijuana shipments to other states for sale.

In 2012, agents seized 274 Colorado shipments destined for 37 states compared to 54 shipments in 2005, Kozak said. Each shipment averaged four pounds of marijuana.

The police chief presented a seminar Tuesday night on the pros and cons of marijuana legalization to a diverse group of about 30 people at the Kiwanis Community House.

The audience included parents and about half a dozen proponents of legalizing marijuana for medical use. They medical marijuana supporters wore brown T-shirts with a green "Weed Wyoming" logo.

Kozak explained the signs of marijuana use including bloodshot eyes and impaired motor skills, such as the inability to touch your finger to your nose.

He also cited various statistics showing the impact on Colorado of the relaxed marijuana law, including an increase in the number of students who said they smoked marijuana within the past 30 days and a boost in the potency of the drug.

Kozak's biggest objection to the legalization of marijuana is the prospect of more cases of users driving while impaired.

"The drivers think they're fine," Kozak said.

The police chief is concerned that legalization will encourage young people to believe marijuana use is OK.

He also said the state has yet to get a handle on drivers impaired by alcohol, noting the sentences in Wyoming for DUI offenses are too lenient compared to other states.

"One of the first things the state needs to do is to strengthen DUI laws for alcohol and drugs," Kozak said.

Kozak said abuse of prescription drugs is another major problem.

One of the meeting's attendees was Charlie Lake of Casper. He is the founder and executive director of "Weed the People," a nonprofit group promoting the legalization of marijuana for medical use.

Lake said after the meeting that opponents are ignoring research on the drug.

He said his group has about 1,500 members in several chapters around the state who will be working on a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Lake said the bill ultimately will be presented to voters as a ballot initiative in the 2016 general election.

"We have way too much work to be done," Lake said.

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