The state of Colorado has had nearly five years to adjust to the legalization of marijuana and one local police chief is providing advice to Canadian authorities.
Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson is being actively sought by Canadian law enforcement for advice as they prepare to go down the same path next summer.
Earlier this week, police services from across Canada asked the federal government to pump the brakes on pot legalization at a House of Commons health committee, adding the proposed July 1, 2018 timeline is too soon.
“We went very quickly,” explained Jackson. “From zero to 100 miles an hour literally overnight.”
Amendment 64 officially passed in November 2012, making the recreational use of marijuana legal in Colorado, and Jackson was part of a task force charged with considering the ramifications of major concerns such as home grow ops, youth access and impaired driving.
“We didn’t really know what a butane hash oil explosion was,” he said. “But we learned from home grows, which in all actuality we should have prevented back then.”
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), marijuana-involved impaired driving fatalities are on the rise.
In 2016, the state saw its highest number of vehicle crash fatalities in 12 years. Of the 608 fatalities recorded, 125 were marijuana-related.
“You hear impaired driving won’t go up. I’m here to tell you right now — it will,” he said. “We’ve seen the carnage on our highways from it.”
Jackson has been invited by Canadian law enforcement to take part in legalization talks later this year.
“I’m going to encourage them to engage to the point where you can find some common working ground. You may not like it, you may not want to do it, but I’ve had some personal arguments with chiefs here in Colorado,” he said.
“Our job is to create public safety. It’s not to be adversarial or obstructionist.”
Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Mike Serr, the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) Drug Advisory Committee, said more resources are needed.
While the association supports a deferred timeline, they do not have an alternative date in mind.
“What we’ve learned is if we unroll too quickly, that mistake can be made,” he said. “And that’s why we’re just saying to take a cautious approach as we move forward.”
Chief John Jackson said he supports that approach.
“You shouldn’t be an obstructionist to prevent it from being done, if that’s the will of the people or the will of your leader,” said Jackson.
“But I don’t think a date should trump doing it right.”