Medical marijuana policies could hurt police recruitment, departments say

Jun 23, 2021, 11:14 AM | Updated: 5:43 pm
medical marijuana utah...
FILE - In this July 2, 2019, file photo, Darren Johnson, a hemp processor, holds raw hemp that will be used to make CBD oil at his processing facility, Wasatch Extraction, in Salt Lake City. A Utah group that led the push to get medical marijuana legalized in Utah launched a new project with marijuana pharmacies in the state Tuesday, April 20, 2021 to get certain people discounted rates on pot. They say they're doing it because people can't use health insurance to pay for it. (AP Photo/Morgan Smith, File)
(AP Photo/Morgan Smith, File)

SANDY, Utah — Strict policies against medical marijuana use could be hurting police recruitment efforts, the director of Utah’s Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, said Tuesday. 

As reported by KSL.com, Maj. Scott Stephenson addressed the issue at the group’s quarterly meeting Tuesday, its first in-person meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Stephenson said multiple agencies reached out to him about recruitment, specifically regarding applicants to local police agencies who used medical marijuana within the last year.

Medical marijuana use and police recruitment

Utah law prohibits officers and cadets from carrying a gun if they’ve used the drug in the last 12 months. Many other states do not.  That means many qualified law enforcement candidates moving to the Beehive State can’t work here.

Stephenson said Utah’s strict policy on marijuana creates a police recruitment challenge.

One council member stated back injuries are very common among corrections officers and those from many other states can legally use medical marijuana for their pain.  However, Utah requires police to uphold both state and federal laws.  Since the federal government still outlaws medical marijuana, Utah police can’t use it.  Not only that, any prescription for the drug must be expired for at least one year as well. 

Changes to the law? 

Stephenson would like law makers to consider adjusting the law — which is somewhat conflicting.  Currently, officers can wear a badge while on prescribed drugs.  However, no officer or cadet can take a prescription medication which could impair their driving or while wearing a firearm.

He asked if the agency could change its rules so employees who do not normally wear a gun or drive while on shift — like corrections officers or dispatchers — could use medical marijuana.  That could open the door to more qualified applicants, he said. 

But he added a lot of research still needs to be done on both state and federal guidelines before the council moves forward with a solution.  

Read more about Tuesday’s POST meeting here

More medical marijuana coverage: 

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Medical marijuana policies could hurt police recruitment, departments say