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VACP Statement to the State Crime Commission on Decriminalization and/or Legalization of Marijuana

August 30, 2017 | VACP

News Image The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police has been closely monitoring the public debate regarding the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana for the past several years. In the final analysis, the Association has determined that it must oppose these initiatives. Below are summaries for a number of our points in reference to this position.

Science confirms the harmful effects that marijuana has on an individual’s health. Decriminalization poses a direct threat to the well-being of our citizens. Eerily the same arguments espoused in favor of decriminalization or legalization are almost indistinguishable from those that tobacco companies offered in the 1960s when they claimed that smoking tobacco was not addictive and not a public health concern.

Marijuana proponents have repeated their strategy in Virginia of utilizing incremental steps in their quest to legalize it. The process begins with lobbying for its approval for medical purposes and then quickly advances to the decriminalization of “small amounts” of the drug. Once these benchmarks are reached, the public campaign and push for complete legalization is initiated. The Commonwealth already has entered the path toward this end by previously approving the medical marijuana model. We should not take another step down this road.

The abundance of prescription pills in medicine cabinets fuels the current opioid epidemic throughout this Commonwealth. One of the challenges in fighting this epidemic is that teenagers view these pills as being safe because their use is legal and prescribed by a physician. If marijuana is decriminalized or legalized, parents will face the same challenges represented by alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription medications in trying to stop their children from using these commodities. Thus, it follows that children also will view the use of marijuana as legitimate and safe during a period in their lives when they are the most vulnerable and the effects of its ingestion the most dramatic.

The marijuana black market has continued to flourish in those states where it is legal due to its substantially lower cost. Furthermore, the marijuana producers in those states have helped to extend the black market into states where it is still illegal by clandestinely shipping their product into those localities.

There is a process in this country for testing the benefits and consequences of individual drugs. Currently, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved the use of marijuana for medical treatment. The circumvention of this protocol for political expediency is an unsound public policy.

The government should not be considering profiting from the sale of marijuana, via assessing taxes on it, as a reason for its legalization. Information from states such as Colorado indicate that the revenue realized through legalization has not provided the expected financial windfall due to the costs associated with the issues that resulted from it as well as the unintended consequences of the drug’s use. It is our hope that our society has not become so morally bankrupt that we resort to allowing substances to be consumed that we know are harmful to our citizens in order for the government to realize tax revenues or for politicians to garner votes.

Virginia needs to remain “open for business” by providing employers with an employment pool of human resources that are less likely to be under the influence of marijuana upon returning to the workplace. This drug free workplace requirement is especially necessary in the law enforcement profession.

Every day, law enforcement professionals in this Commonwealth encounter abused or neglected children in circumstances that are the direct result of their caregivers’ drug addictions. The evidence is conclusive that the use of marijuana increases in areas where it is legal. The use of marijuana long has been recognized as a social gateway to more serious drug use and abuse. The resulting addictions affect an individual’s ability to function and to provide for their families. The consequences associated with their failures due to their addictions extends to the lives of their children, creating a continuing generational cycle of abuse.

Marijuana proponents state that their support for decriminalizing or legalizing this substance does not include allowing juveniles to use the drug. However, in states where marijuana possession is no longer a crime, marijuana suppliers are marketing edible marijuana in the form of lollipops, gummy bears, and other candies of this type. Honestly, how many adults consume these types of confectionaries? The only reasonable purpose in packaging marijuana as candies in this fashion is to introduce children to marijuana in order to procure their eventual support for the total legalization cause in the future.

When considering all of the costs associated with alcoholic beverage consumption, does legalizing another substance that causes the same problems constitute a rational public policy? Most people who drink alcohol do not generally do so to become intoxicated and can minimize their inebriation. However, when alcohol is consumed to excess, it is a major contributing factor in domestic violence, sexual assault and traffic crashes. Conversely, virtually everyone who uses marijuana does so with the intent to get high. Thus, we expect that the volume, severity, and cost of tragedies associated with marijuana doping are certain to increase with the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. Therefore, our association urges the leadership of our great Commonwealth to do what is right and what is in the best interest of the personal health of our citizens by rejecting either decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.

On behalf of the Executive Board of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police,

Colonel Thierry G. Dupuis
VACP President, 2016-17