Colorado Police Departments Loosen Officer Marijuana Use Requirements

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado is changing perspectives throughout the state, even Colorado police departments are seeing cannabis in a new light. Traditional policies have been to deny any applicant looking to join the police force if they have used marijuana in the last three years.

Some traditionalists are still saying that alcohol and marijuana have no place in law enforcement, referencing the idea that the first responders during the 9/11 terrorist act were all sober. Other agencies in Colorado are now thinking that as long as a candidate has not used marijuana in the last year will suffice.

“People who want to be in public safety have to have higher standards.”

Yet other police departments in the state are changing their attitudes. Last year, the Aurora Civil Service Commission adopted a policy that requires applicants to its police and fire departments to be marijuana-free for one year instead of three.

The changes in policies reflect evolving attitudes toward marijuana use in society, and some police departments are changing their standards because they fear they might lose otherwise high-quality recruits who have experimented with the drug because it is legal for people who are 21 or older to use pot in Colorado.

Although marijuana is legal in Colorado, employers are allowed by state law to prohibit their employees from using it.

Changing police polices are not exclusive to Colorado, or even to states where pot is legal.

In Colorado, there is no statewide standard. Instead, individual agencies, or their commissions that make hiring rules, and sheriff’s offices make their own policies. The Colorado State Patrol drug screens its applicants.

“It’s just individual cities or departments are deciding their own preferences,” said Duane Oakes, president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and chief at the Alamosa Police Department.

But Oakes said he is considering making it a topic at the next statewide conference for Colorado chiefs.

“The more states that legalize it, the more departments that are going to run into it,” he said.

The reality is that just because an individual uses marijuana does not mean that they are high all of the time. Police officers are allowed to drink alcohol in their downtime, why not then be able to let off some steam with cannabis as well? Do you think that if police officers are allowed to drink when they are not on duty, that they should also be able to indulge in marijuana when they are not on duty?

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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