Ohio police departments are learning how to interpret the law and medical marijuana in the new year. So they are turning to experts from Colorado for direction on arrests, cases and how to handle the drug in the field.
Blue Ash Police Chief Paul Hartinger said medical marijuana presents a new era for law enforcement and that’s why he wants to make sure his officers are ready.
“I think it’s imperative to keep my officers up to speed, every day, every month, every week, whatever it is,” Hartinger said.
Hartinger is big on training and now his focus is shifting to medical marijuana.
“What are the things that I need to know on the streets so that I do my job well and do it right but still enforce the laws that are on the books?” Hartinger said.
In order to get a better idea, he brought in a former prosecutor from Colorado last week to read Ohio’s law and help his officers navigate a budding industry in 2018.
“If I look in the car and I see something that just absolutely looks illegal, for instance, the paraphernalia, may not be illegal next year,” he said.
He’s been reading through more than 80 pages trying to understand the law.
He expects 2018 will be interesting in the world of medical marijuana.
His big concerns are understanding medical marijuana cards, determining who has permission to carry marijuana in different forms and how to handle potential OVIs and violations in court.
He wants to make sure the drug is available for legal users, but admits the unknown could hamper arrests for abusers.
“There’s going to be some hesitance because if somebody does produce a card or looks like it’s a valid card, some officers may just find it, they may not have the information readily available to know whether or not it’s enough for an offense,” Hartinger told WLWT.
Some communities, such as Blue Ash, are banning dispensaries while others are choosing moratoriums.
Companies approved by the state to run dispensaries are expected to be up and running by September 2018.
Hartinger said that means officers will have to consider the law and rules for those businesses and take into consideration their safety and security and the expectations from police.
“My guys have to be on top of it every day,” he said.
The chief said more visits from experts are likely to help officers navigate medical marijuana because there are plenty more questions.
He said there are about 2,300 officers in Hamilton County.
Hartinger hopes the state and local governments will collaborate on more training for officers across Ohio to make sure the law is handled correctly.
WLWT also reached out the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office for any insight into preparations for potential medical marijuana cases.