ALBANY – Jamestown’s representative in New York State’s Senate is calling for additional funding to support law enforcement training that would be necessary if the state legalizes recreational marijuana.
Senator George Borrello says there is currently a lack of certified drug recognition experts among the law enforcement community, a critical position that properly identifies those driving under the influence of the drug.
In order to properly roll out the specialty training, the Senator is calling on the state to allocate $600 million to fund the mandate.
“One of the most troubling consequences of marijuana legalization is the rise it produces in impaired driving, because that threat becomes a problem for every law-abiding person on the road,” said Senator Borrello. “Unlike impaired driving resulting from alcohol use which can be measured with a breathalyzer, there isn’t a definitive test that can be administered onsite to confirm marijuana impairment and this creates a major enforcement problem.”
The Senator says that he remains opposed to legalizing marijuana for many reasons, including its impacts on public health, rates of substance abuse and traffic safety.
He cited statistics showing increases in traffic accidents where recreational marijuana was legalized.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that following Washington’s legalization, the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana after a fatal crash doubled, rising from approximately 9 percent to 18 percent.
The first year following Colorado’s legalization, the state saw a 62 percent increase in fatalities.
“The best answer to this problem is ensuring our police officers are trained experts,” explained Borrello. “This expertise enables an officer to classify the type of drug a person has taken by using a 12-step evaluation process that includes factors like a person’s pulse rate, eye movements, pupil size, and body temperature.”
There are only around 350 drug recognition experts statewide, with 55,000 police officers not trained. Borrello says it will cost $11,000 per officer to complete the needed training.
“Every police officer in New York State goes to work each day with the tools and training to identify someone under the influence of alcohol,” furthered Borrello. “We need to hold marijuana consumption to the same public safety standard.”