Jesse Thomas, Rice County Sheriff, sent a letter today to state lawmakers representing the county in St. Paul concerning the possible legalization of recreational cannabis.

Below is a copy of the letter.

"As Sheriff of Rice County, I was elected to enforce our laws and keep the public safe.  Wit the Minnesota Legislature considering the legalization of recreational cannabis, my job may bew changing substantially in the near future.  The poposed bills have been moving through the legislature at a rapid pace, and I am concerned that state lawmakers may not addres some key public safety issues that would arise if cannabis is legalized this session."

"Currently, law enforcement lacks an instant, on-site test for cannabis intoxication, that's similar to a breathalyzer.  We also lack a standard to determine if a driver is unfit to be behind the wheel, such as the .08 BAC standard used for alcohol intoxication.  While the current bills contain provisions for developing a test, it won't be ready intil long after commercial cannabis hits the market.  In the interim, how are law enforcement officers expected to keep our roads safe from intoxicated drivers?"

"This is especially important considering that in states with legalized cannibis, the number of traffic deaths involving drivers who test positive for cannabis has increased.  Inb Colorado, the number of traffic deaths for drivers who tested positive increased from 55 in 2013 to 131 in 2020.  Adding more impaired drivers to the road without a roadside testing method will likely lead to more deaths on our roadways."

"Traffic risks are not out only concern.  Cannabis legalization proponents often cite hampering the black market as a benefit.  Howeveer, in states with legalized recreational cannabis, the black market has actually grown.  With legalized recreational use, it may be more difficult to enforce the law and prevent criminals from bypassing regulations on production and sales meant to keep Minnesotans safe."

"With these concerns, it is important that our law enforcement agencies receive adequate funding to address the harms of legalized cannabis.  Proponents cite increasted tax revenue as a benefit of legalization.  However, legalization also brings substantial new costs.  In fact,  Minnesotans must be ready to make that investment and have a plan to find projects like developing a roadside test, roadway safety initiatives, drug expert training, a 2019 study in Colorado found that for every dollar of

tax revenue received from recreational cannabis sales, $4.50 was spent on addressing the adverse impacts of cannabis. dependency relief programs, and other public health and safety costs if cannabis is legalized."

"Before making this significant decision , it's important that our lawmakers address Minnesotans' concerns about the real harms of cannabis and develop a plan to help law enforcement keep our state safe."

Sheriff Jesse  J. Thomas
Rice County, Mn.

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