Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police
Taxpayers in Alaska’s small towns and cities may face as much as $6,000,000 in unanticipated costs if the marijuana initiative passes this year. The Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police (AACOP) is worried that some significant costs of legalization are not being discussed. In a recent survey conducted by the association, 75% of chiefs in Alaska said their agencies would not have the resources necessary to deal with the potential law enforcement impact of marijuana legalization in their communities. It has been reported that when polled on potential passage of the proposed “Act To Tax And Regulate The Production, Sale And Use Of Marijuana” many Alaskans who say they favor it, do so with the caveat that it “be enforced like alcohol is”. What the public does not realize, is that this is far easier said than done.
Ample evidence exists to indicate that with the liberalization of marijuana laws, there will be more users of the drug sharing our highways, and that a good number of them will be impaired and putting other drivers at risk. Even the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is concerned about the risks presented by marijuana users on our highways. In a report titled, Cannabis and Driving (Jan. 2008), they recommended that motorists should be discouraged from driving if they have recently smoked cannabis and that they should never operate a motor vehicle after having consumed both marijuana and alcohol. They also called for development of a testing tool to help law enforcement officers keep impaired drivers off the highways.
Because there is no breathalyzer or similar tool for roadside assessment of marijuana impairment, drivers suspected of driving under the influence of the drug (DUID) have to be identified by observations of the arresting officer and established with corroboration of blood toxicology. Presently, less than 3% of Alaskan police officers have the level or training needed to definitively identify impairment through symptomology, and in most communities, suspects of DUID need to be brought to a hospital or clinic before blood can be drawn lengthening the time it takes to process an arrest and keeping the officer from seeking out other violators.
Alaskan police chiefs are also concerned about statistical trends developing in Colorado and in studies from other states where marijuana use has been liberalized which indicate legal marijuana is easily diverted to teens. Sixty-four percent of the chiefs cite the desire to increase the number of school resource officers (SROs) in their communities to help counteract that inevitability, but worry about finding the financial resources to do so. Only 2 Alaskan chiefs believed there was community support to allow their budget to be raised sufficiently to cover needs created by legalization.
AACOP estimates that more than 700 of Alaska’s 950 law enforcement officers need Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training in order that they can readily identify symptoms of DUID, and that 150 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) are needed across the state to ensure that there is an expert on call in every department to process a DUID arrest. Because such widespread training is logistically difficult in a state like Alaska, the cost of necessary ARIDE and DRE training will amount to an estimated $3,721,000, and because there is no provision in the proposed legislation to support the needs of local law enforcement, this cost will likely need to be borne by taxpayers at a community level.
While 4 chiefs said they would be able to train existing officers to assume the role of SROs, fifteen chiefs indicated it would be necessary for them to hire additional officers to work within the schools in their effort to educate teens about the dangers of drugs. It is estimated that 32 additional SROs are needed across the state for a total estimated cost of almost $2,300,000.
In all, the estimated cost to local police agencies of securing our streets and highways, and protecting Alaska’s children from the ill effects of marijuana could total as much as $6,000,000, yet that is a number which has not yet been mentioned in the legalization discussion.
Do you have Questions or an interview request?
Please contact AACOP Executive Director Kalie Klaysmat