Pubdate: Tue, 26 Oct 2010
Source: Redlands Daily Facts (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Newspaper group
Author: Jesse B. Gill
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


The fate of Proposition 19 is still unclear, and as a result, many
police departments are waiting to see what impacts the legislation
will make before altering enforcement tactics.

Prop. 19 would make it legal for people 21 and older to possess up to
an ounce of marijuana for personal use, grow up to 25 square feet of
the drug and consume it in a non-public place.

"It's definitely unclear what the impact is going to be," said
Beaumont Police Chief Frank Coe.

Beaumont police are taking a "wait and see" attitude toward marijuana
enforcement strategies based on Prop.19, Coe said.

If voters pass the proposition, it will change the way police
departments enforce marijuana possession and use. But police brass
don't yet know how much Prop. 19 will force them to alter their strategies.

"If it happens, it happens," Coe said. "We'll evaluate our enforcement
strategy as we see the impact of the law if it's passed."

A marijuana dispensary in Beaumont that's operating in violation of a
city moratorium - and being fined $1,000 per day - is already on the
department's radar.

Redlands police Lt. Chris Catren said the department always waits to
examine the impact of new legislation before making changes to
enforcement policy.

But Prop. 19 won't disrupt the way Redlands police enforce marijuana
possession much, Catren said. Adults carrying less than an ounce
aren't arrested now.

"As it is, it's a very low misdemeanor," he said. "I don't know that
(Prop. 19) would change our strategy a great deal."

And soon, it won't be a misdemeanor at all.

After Jan. 1, anyone found with less than an ounce of marijuana in
their possession would be subject to a civil infraction.

Coe said he's concerned about the possible influx of new smokers
sparked by the proposition.

Even if California voters pass Prop. 19, the sale of marijuana would
remain illegal under federal drug laws.

Coe said he hopes the fact that marijuana will still violate federal
law will encourage possible new marijuana users not to start.

Police are concerned about a possible spike in people driving under
the influence of marijuana if voters pass Prop. 19. Identifying and
prosecuting drivers under the influence of marijuana isn't the same as
doing the same to people who drink and drive.

Catren said police use two indicators to tell if drivers have been
drinking - blood alcohol level and erratic driving. But arrests made
on drivers under the influence of marijuana are typically made after
the driver has displayed erratic or odd driving behavior.

Coe said officers are trained to look for drivers who might be under
the influence of any drug. But there is no blood alcohol meter for
marijuana users, he said.

While Redlands police arrest drivers under the influence of marijuana,
it's not the most likely narcotic they encounter in traffic stops.

"We'll see if it even becomes an issue," Catren said. "We don't want
to bleed before we've been cut." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake