Policing marijuana in Connecticut is about to change

Cannabis in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The new marijuana law goes into effect Thursday, July 1. Law enforcement has only had a few weeks to gear up.

Guidance to local departments has gone out around the state. But some are critical of the governor and Democratic leaders calling the law “a slapdash legalization of marijuana,” adding Gov. Ned Lamont is “ignoring the immediate ramifications of the controversial change.”

RELATED: Designated pot-smoking areas to be required in more populated CT towns, cities once marijuana is legal

With recreational cannabis legal in Connecticut starting July 1, will you see a difference when it comes to public safety?

Brian Foley from the Connecticut State Police said the 300-page bill presents a number of changes. “There are some adjustments in there for law enforcement and that’s important. That was in the training bulletin that you saw.”

News 8 obtained the 10-page bulletin from the Police Officer Standard and Training (POST) Council. In it, guidance on law enforcement changes like limits on vehicle searches. No longer can the odor of pot launch a police search.

He says every single police academy class will have training.

“The recruits that are in here now will get it. There will be in-service training across the state in every police department in conjunction with the State Attorneys Office,” remarked Foley.

There are 56 Drug Recognition Experts, or DREs, around the state. Trooper Corrine Swift is one of a dozen on the Connecticut State Police force.

How prevalent is ‘drugged driving’?

“Drugged driving is a very big issue not just in Connecticut but across the nation,” said Trooper Swift.

DREs come in after a DUI checkpoint arrest if drugs are suspected.

Trooper Swift says the tests cover everything from the walk and turn to blood pressure checks. “We look at physiological aspects to people’s demeanor a lot of divided attention tests, field sobriety tests.”

The law requires more officers to be trained as DREs. POST and the Department of Transportation will be required to put together a training plan.

And those agencies will recommend how many new DREs will be needed for checkpoints.

Brian Foley admitted, “Every police officer is going to have it [training]. We have six instructors; you’re going to see a large increase in DREs across the state in the coming years.”

He added, “I’m sure every police department across the country wishes they had more DRE officers.”

The law not only changes police policies, but if you were pinched for pot in the past your record could be erased. What kind of punishment could you face now?

It’s a Class C misdemeanor for smoking while driving. Class D misdemeanor for smoking while being a passenger.

House Minority Leader Vin Candelora is very upset at the lack of guidance from the state on this new law.

In a statement State Rep. Candelora says, “Their light switch approach to marijuana being on tomorrow…is reckless.”

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