Is it safer to get high than it is to get drunk?
This question has led to a dilemma in Denver, where police officers face a zero tolerance policy on marijuana despite the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 for adults aged 21 and older. Recently, the Marijuana Policy Project urged the Denver Police Department to allow officers of the law to use recreational marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol, following an announcement made by Denver Police Chief Robert White, in which he conceded to be considering options for handling the department’s problematic alcohol abuse. “I’m concerned for the officers. I’m concerned for their wellness,” White admitted. “I’m concerned for our agency. We’ve worked extremely hard.”
In 2014, Denver has seen a series of officer arrests in which alcohol has played a key role. There are already seven officers accused of crimes so far this year, six of which directly involved alcohol abuse (by comparison, there were only four officers arrested in 2013). The Denver Post reports:
Incidents involving officers this year have included a veteran detective arrested on a child-pornography charge; another detective arrested on nine charges, including child abuse and domestic violence; and two officers accused, along with their wives, of getting into a drunken brawl involving allegations of swinging. Three others have been accused on driving under the influence, said Sonny Jackson, a department spokesman.
The Marijuana Policy Project contacted the Denver Police Department on Friday and suggested considering the potential benefits of lifting the department’s ban on off-duty marijuana use.
“Denver police officers know as well as anyone that alcohol use is a far bigger threat to public safety than marijuana use,” said Mason Tvert, MPP’s Denver-based director of communications. “Drunk and rowdy people cause them problems all day at work. It should not be a problem for them to relax after work by using marijuana instead of alcohol, if that’s what they prefer.” Tvert was also co-director of the 2012 initiative campaign to end marijuana prohibition in Colorado.
And, if the law prevents lifting the ban on off-duty marijuana use, the MPP suggests that “the [Denver Police Department] and other police organizations should lobby to change the law(s) in the interest of officers’ health and safety.”
“Coloradans now have the right to make the safer choice, and that should include our law enforcement officers,” argues Tvert. “Police organizations always lobby on issues that affect their members’ health and safety. This case should be no different.”
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes
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