BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Starting January 1st, smoking weed will be legal in the state, and although recreational sale could bring in more money, it also poses a problem for police.
Bloomington Police officers know hundreds of people will be able to legally carry and smoke marijuana in the city. The problem is, they are concerned with how the change will impact the way they operate.
Chief Dan Donath says officers will have to go through a bit of a learning curve to make sure people are using the drug responsibly. He says it begins with DUI testing.
“For cannabis we don’t have the same field sobriety tests as we do for alcohol,” said Donath. “We don’t have breathalyzers that are approved by the courts so that’s going to be a difficult thing to deal with.”
In order to find out whether a driver is high, an officer would have to take that person to a medical facility to get blood drawn and wait for the results. If the driver has THC in their system, they’ll be sent a ticket in the mail.
Assistant Chief Gregory Scott says that entire process is time-consuming for an officer who needs to be on patrol.
“We’re all kind of struggling with a man power issue,” said Scott. “The Fire Department, the Police Department, there’s a nursing shortage. The more we tax those systems, the more they are going to slow down and potentially affect the community.”
Scott says state leaders are trying to come up with a field test for cannabis, but even if they do, it has to be approved by the courts.
“It’s not like we’re going to have a solution in the next month, six months, it may be for years before that actually gets through the process and it’s accepted,” said Scott.
Another issue would be dealing with overdoses. Because the marijuana sold legally would have a higher THC level than the off the street strands, some people may accidentally take too much.
“It’s really kind of a wait and see kind of thing,” said Donath. “We will educate, and we will provide information. Until that time actually comes though, and you actually go through it, that’s when you are really going to learn all of your lessons.”
The Bloomington cannabis task force will be meeting Thursday to talk about these issues and many more.
If you would like to listen to the conversation, it will be held in Council Chambers at 6 p.m.