How will legalizing marijuana impact police work? – USA Today – USA TODAY


Joseph Walker, Ringwood police chief, talks about the potential impact of legalized marijuana in New Jersey. David M Zimmer/

Marijuana and cash seized by police officials in Bergen County.(Photo: File/

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. — Proponents say legalizing marijuana will increase tax revenue and decrease crime. For local police departments across the nation, the change would usher in a new way of policing and some complications, at least in the short term, said law enforcement officials

“It will change the way we do our job,” said James Batelli, police chief in the college town of Mahwah, N.J. 

Some law enforcement concerns focus on unreliable tests for impaired drivers, regulating usage, the affects on bordering states that continue to list marijuana as an illegal substance as well as a continuing black market for those who wish to avoid paying taxes on their purchase. 

Haledon police officers search a car after detecting an odor of marijuana during a vehicle stop on Belmont Avenue. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/

Legalization potential 

In New Jersey, the state’s law enforcement sector will face significant changes in 2018 if the governor-elect makes good on his campaign promise to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office.

While Republican gubernatorial candidate and outgoing Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno opposed legalization of marijuana, governor-elect Phil Murphy went beyond calls to expand it for medical use, and promised to legalize it for individuals 21 and older within the first 100 days in office.

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More: Legal marijuana arriving in California after decades of underground dealing

“We are sending the youth a mixed message. The outgoing governor has declared a war on drugs with the opioids, and the new one coming in is saying it’s O.K. to smoke pot.”

Existing laws cost between $127 and $143 million each year to

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