Sunday, December 02, 2012

Marijuana crime

Personal marijuana use was just legalized in Colorado and Washington, but it has already been legal in my California beach town. For about $60, you can get a license to buy and use medical marijuana. All you have to do is to say that you have anxiety, or migraines, or back pain, or some such unverifiable ailment. No documentation is required. With such a prescription, you can buy top-quality marijuana in local stores. The cops are not allowed to arrest anyone for using it. If they see you smoking it on a public street, they will just tell you to put it away.

The local highway patrol writes in the local paper:
I just read the recent editorial on the local drug trade, and I do agree wholeheartedly with the Sentinel Editorial Board’s stance on drugs as a major contributor to crime.

One missing element however is the elephant in the room: marijuana. In addition to the robberies, murder and other crimes centered on marijuana locally (just this week a marijuana dispensary was robbed at gunpoint before the suspects led law enforcement on a pursuit), marijuana-impaired drivers have also caused 70 percent of our local roadway fatalities so far this year. Many drug crimes are perpetuated against victims who are already involved in the drug trade. Not so with motor vehicle collisions. This means innocent people are often being killed or injured — through no fault of their own — by simply using the public roadways. Marijuana impairment is now killing more Santa Cruz motorists than alcohol.

The CHP is doing everything it can to make sure we all make it to our destinations safely, which often feels like an uphill battle. The community of Santa Cruz County can help us with this. Help us educate marijuana users about the risks of driving under the influence. Help us educate our teens and young adults (who already know drinking and driving is dangerous) on the dangers of impaired driving of any kind. Call 911 when you see dangerous driving, and don’t let your friends drive while impaired.

Matt Olson is captain of the Santa Cruz-area California Highway Patrol.

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