Police agencies look to craft policies regarding pot use by officers

Can police departments ban pot use?

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — If the measure legalizing recreational use of marijuana becomes law in Maine, can police agencies prohibit their own officers from using it?

Because the active ingredient in pot, THC, stays in your system longer than alcohol, officers who use pot off-duty could still have it their system back on the job. That could create liability issues for their departments. It’s something police across Maine are now grappling with.

“If something bad happens, a fatal accident, an officer-involved shooting, and there’s some mandated testing, even though the person is not impaired, there’s going to be the presence of THC in their system,” Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

Sheriff Joyce said he’s reached out to the county attorney and insurance provider for guidance.

“To say 'hey, how far can we make our policies to forbid somebody from partaking in this activity?'" he said.

Legalized pot in Maine would also create another question for law enforcement.

“Can a police officer smoke marijuana if the state law passes, when, in fact, it’s still violating federal law?" Holden Police Chief Chris Greeley said. "That’s going to be a challenge and we’re going to have to take a look at that."

Alicia Melnik was the political director for the legalization campaign. She said, in medical marijuana cases, courts have ruled employers can impose zero tolerance policies for THC in their workers but adds every case is different.

“The litigation that has taken place around this with medical marijuana has really erred on the side of employers," she said. "[It] has come down on the side of employers to prohibit people from having THC in their system, but as you know, anything can be litigated.” 

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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