Jacksonville’s Police Chief is weighing in on the legalization of marijuana in the State of Illinois. Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford says that the department will have some changes as they undertake the legalization of cannabis in the city limits in January 2020 when the bill becomes law.
Mefford explained on the What’s On Your Mind Program what changes are coming to the department when it comes to cannabis. “A lot of this is going to be administrative changes. Not just being allowed to smoke cannabis in the privacy of your own home, but the administrative changes of going back through years of police records and performing expungement on cases. Part of the law is going back through the history of calls and records and expunging those. The other change is educating officers on what is and is not legal for citizens to do with this new law.”
Mefford said that residents will not be allowed to smoke marijuana in public places nor be allowed to smoke it in their cars. Mefford explains how transport will work. “The only time it can be in a vehicle is from the dispensary to the residence. If you are a medical cannabis patient, then you can transport it in your vehicle so long as it’s in the receptacle that it was designed to be in.”
Mefford says the biggest challenge for law enforcement is recognizing impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana. “Officers already have some training in the signs of impairment. Generally, if they are impaired to the point they can’t operate the vehicle, officers will be able to see the signs of that – the glassy eyes, the slurred speech, the odor of cannabis can infiltrate the clothing and the hair. It does leave behind a distinct residual smell. The totality of those things is what the officers are going to have to do when they put together their investigation into impaired driving. Is it any more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol? No, I believe impaired driving is impaired driving. It’s dangerous for everybody. Driving under the influence isn’t just limited to alcohol. We’re not naive enough to believe that people aren’t smoking cannabis and then operating a motor vehicle so we do have some experience with this type of enforcement. Initially, I think we will see an uptick in impaired driving but I hope we don’t.”
Mefford says that the nanograms of THC in one’s system will be used for criminal prosecution in cases of driving under the influence. The Illinois State Police crime lab will process defendant’s blood tests in criminal cases and ship them to a special lab in Chicagoland for final results. Mefford says the lab is currently already backlogged. Mefford, though, is optimistic that law enforcement will be able to adapt to the upcoming changes within a year of the bill becoming law.