Medical Marijuana Raises Questions for Law Enforcement

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Missouri in November of 2018, law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that the change could lead to an increase in recreational use.

St. Joseph law enforcement agencies often see marijuana use, but St. Joseph Police Capt. Jeff Wilson said the biggest concerns are related to young people and driving.​​

“Our concerns are that it may lead to an increased use in the younger age bracket, and that’s something we’ll monitor,” Wilson said.

Driving while under the influence of marijuana is something Wilson said police officers are trained to detect.

“With the legalization you can probably assume that there will be more impaired drivers because it’s legal for them to use marijuana, but definitely don’t operate a motor vehicle,” Wilson said.

Wilson also urges people with medical cards to keep their substances secure, where kids won’t have access to it.

There’s also a procedure police use to check medical identification cards when they come across them in a traffic stop. Checks are done to make sure the cards are not duplicates or false, which Wilson said is a concern for the department.

Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said his staff is concerned with recreational marijuana use, but they’re more focused on the harsher drugs going through the community.

“Our priorities are concerns about illegal drug use in the county, especially issues of methamphetamine, opioids, heroin and crack cocaine,” Puett said.

Puett said the use of those illegal substances is what brings violence and issues with property crimes. Those in the sheriff’s office still are concerned with medical marijuana issues, but they’re waiting for all of the parameters to be put in place.

“Recreational marijuana use is still illegal and I don’t know if that’ll change, but we’re focused on enforcing the laws on the books and what the Legislature passes,” Puett said.

As the rules involving medical marijuana use move along, Puett said his officers will learn what actions they need to take and what their biggest concerns will be in the future.

Wilson said police recover a variety of illegal substances on the streets, but typically they have specific officers focused on marijuana-related cases to help stop recreational use.

Overall, both law enforcement agencies hope medical marijuana users take the appropriate actions that won’t lead to the substances getting in the wrong hands, causing an increase in recreational use.

By Bailey Ketchum | News-Press Now

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