Police Worried About Effects of Marijuana Decriminalization

- FREDERICK, Md. - Governor Martin O'Malley signed two controversial marijuana bills into law Monday. A local police department isn't very fond of them and says it will have a negative impact on how they operate.

Frederick City Police Chief Thomas Ledwell already has busy days, and he says they're about to get even longer because of the effects of Maryland's marijuana decriminalization law.

"From a law enforcement perspective, it's going to affect us negatively," Ledwell said.

The law decriminalizes having less than 10 grams of marijuana. People who are found in possession of it will have to pay $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and $500 for every offense after that.

"With the decriminalization of under 10 grams, it's pretty significant for the way we do business," Ledwell said. "It's difficult for us to train the officers to learn the difference between 9.9 grams and 10.1 grams."

Those at Frederick City Police say they'll have to start new training for officers who are already out patrolling and alter their training for student officers, and there's more changes to come.

"It'll have multiple effects on us, and a lot we're going to have to evaluate over time to see how we can change our procedures and work with the state's attorney's office on how the law will effect our search and seizure, for example K9s," said Lt. Dennis Dudley, with the Frederick City Police Department. "Will it affect our scans of vehicles?"

The chief also says police can charge people for larger crimes through a marijuana arrest but is worried the law will make those arrests harder because of a lack of probable cause.

"Unfortunately, addiction and illegal drugs are often tied into our crime issues within the community, so our focus is to be responsive to those community complains, to deal with the community issues," Ledwell said.

The medical marijuana bill will go into effect on June 1st, and the marijuana decriminalization bill will go into effect on October 1st.

Chief Ledwell said he's not as worried about the effects of medical marijuana on law enforcement.

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