NORWALK, Conn. – Retired police inspector William Butka told a crowd in Norwalk on Wednesday that legalized marijuana has had some negative effects in Colorado, and the same could happen in Connecticut if it were legalized here.
Butka gave a presentation in Norwalk City Hall to a group that included law enforcement professionals, elected officials, substance abuse and mental health professionals and community members. The talk was hosted by the Human Services Council, the Courage to Speak Foundation, Communities 4 Action and the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership.
During his talk, Butka drew on his 46 years of experience in law enforcement as well as research he has conducted since marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2014.
“It has devastated law enforcement in Colorado,” Butka said.
Citing statistics from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program’s third report on the impact of legalized marijuana in Colorado, Butka talked about the effects the drug has had on the state in the past year or so.
He said that there has been a 12 percent increase in crime from 2012 to 2014, and that marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased 32 percent. He also cited increased usage across all age groups, increases in emergency room visits for marijuana-related incidents, and increased cases of children ingesting marijuana.
“It’s far from a victimless crime,” he said of drug use. “You’re not alone. If you die, there are a lot of other people you affect.”
He spoke about how employers in Colorado can enforce zero-tolerance drug policies for their employees, even if they use marijuana for medical purposes during non-work hours. He said that safety-sensitive professions such as truck drivers, pilots and train engineers still require drug testing.
“Everyone says, 'Marijuana’s OK.' Well, let me ask you a question: Would you like to get on an airplane, a 747, and have your pilot stoned on pot?”
Butka said the legalization of marijuana has led to an increase of trafficking to other states and countries. He said that even though pot is legal, many people in Colorado still get it from the black market, to the point that the state recently offered a tax-free day on marijuana.
“They didn’t have a back-to-school and buy clothes for your children tax-free day. They didn’t have anything else, but they had a marijuana tax-free day,” Butka said.
He also touched on the increase in overdoses of other drugs around the United States and how drugs are smuggled in from other countries. When asked what the United States could do to stop drugs from coming into the country, Butka said it important to stop people from consuming drugs.
“I think we need to work with countries that are source countries, but the biggest problem is us, the people in the United States who are consumers. We need to get in the mindset here in the United States that we can’t allow this to happen.”
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