SANDY, Utah – The agency that certifies and disciplines all state police officers is considering whether to use medical cannabis.
“This is a difficult subject,” said Major Scott Stephenson, director of Utah’s Peace Officer Standards & Training, on Tuesday.
In a briefing to the POST Council, a group made up of law enforcement officials, academics and citizens, Major Stephenson said that Utah law enforcement colleges are facing increasing inquiries about cannabis.
“While it’s legal in the state of Utah, it’s illegal at the federal level,” he said.
People have expressed an interest in registering as a police officer, “‘but I take medical marijuana or have used it in another jurisdiction where it’s legal, like Colorado or Nevada,” “Major Stephenson said of the comments he heard Has.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Utah since voters approved it in 2018. Legislators have said that it should be treated like any other controlled substance. But there is trouble with cops using it.
POST’s current policy is most likely to require cutting off cannabis at least a year before an officer applies. There’s a hard line at the moment: an officer with a firearm isn’t allowed to use marijuana due to federal law.
However, POST is investigating whether a non-weaponized correctional officer may or may not have used cannabis in the past. It sparked a healthy debate among the members of the council.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this because years ago I totally spoke out in favor of not having medical marijuana in the state of Utah,” said Cameron Noel, Beaver County Sheriff, who suggested the council change its policy to to enable people to seek employment in law enforcement.
He pointed out that many officers suffer back injuries at work and are prescribed narcotics.
“It was made pretty loud and clear, so I think we need to take that into account and maybe change that,” said Sheriff Noel, referring to the will of voters for medicinal cannabis.
Others admitted it was interesting that officials can get prescription opioids, but not medicinal cannabis. However, the council also noted that there isn’t much research on medical cannabis and impairments.
“We have to think about what is best for the citizens. Do we want a cop out there using marijuana when it is medicinal, are they impaired?” Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch, later told FOX 13.
The POST Council has not made a decision on whether an officer with a cardholder can use cannabis. It is entirely possible that the discussion could go back to the legislature for consideration.
Meanwhile, the council disciplined 13 officers for various types of misconduct, ranging from sexual relationships with inmates to DUI and domestic violence crimes. The POST Council also began introducing new training for civil servants that was passed under the mandate of the Utah state legislature. The officers receive special training each year in the areas of violence, de-escalation and how to respond to people in a mental crisis. The bills that require this come from protests against Black Lives Matter last year.
A new law passed by the legislature allows legal permanent residents to apply to be police officers. Major Stephenson sadly said it couldn’t apply to DACA recipients due to federal laws prohibiting them from possession of firearms.
The POST Council also began implementing new guidelines for K-9 training in the state following complaints. A recent investigation by FOX 13 and The Salt Lake Tribune found that police dogs continued to bite some suspects even after they surrendered.