Legalized Marijuana Practical Guide for Law Enforcement released by the Police Foundation and Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police

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Law enforcement faces many new challenges with the legalization of marijuana in four states. A new guide for police and sheriffs highlights the challenges faced in Colorado, along with solutions that have been proposed, and problems that remain.

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In partnership with the Colorado Chiefs Association, the Police Foundation has released ‘Colorado’s Legalization and the Impact on Public Safety: A Practical Guide at the "Marijuana Impact on Public Health and Safety" conference, hosted by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. The conference, on January 14 in Lone Tree near Denver, was expected to draw nearly 500 attendees from across the nation.

Colorado law enforcement has faced a wide range of complex and new challenges since the state became the first to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. As a result of almost a yearlong examination of the experiences of law enforcement agencies across the state, the Police Foundation and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police have developed a practical guide that identifies the key challenges, as well as explores how these issues might be addressed to increase public safety in Colorado.

Key challenges identified in the guide are:

  • The complexity facing law enforcement in determining legal and illegal growing operations as outlined in the rules established by medical and recreational marijuana laws;
  • Early indicators of increased drug use among youth in Colorado
  • An influx of marijuana “tourists” and how to best safeguard them from the potential dangers of high-potency marijuana;
  • Addressing concerns of border states that are affected by those who are trafficking Colorado marijuana across state lines; and
  • Responding lawfully to motorists are driving under the influence of marijuana.

“The Police Foundation has welcomed the chance to work with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police in developing this practical guide to the challenges faced with legalized marijuana,” said Jim Burch, Police Foundation Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “We believe this guide will be a resource for Colorado law enforcement agencies, as well as for law enforcement in other states tackling marijuana legalization.”

“Being one of the first states to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, the Colorado Association of Chief of Police recognized that it was essential to engage from the start and be the strong voice for public safety and policy creation,” said John Jackson, Chief of the Greenwood Village Police Department and President of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. “We are proud of the fact that CACP has been at the formative and decision making table for virtually all of the conceptual discussions on the legalization of marijuana topic/process. We thank The Police Foundation for their leadership and technical guidance on this project.”

The guide is a synthesis of the experiences of Colorado law enforcement agencies gathered through focus groups, state and federal impact reports on the legalization issue, media reports, and dozens of interviews with local, state and federal law enforcement leaders.

Colorado’s Legalization and the Impact on Public Safety: A Practical Guide is available as a free download on the Police Foundation’s website at:

The Police Foundation is a national, non-profit, bipartisan organization that, consistent with its commitment to improve policing, has been on the cutting edge of police innovation for over 40 years. The professional staff at the Police Foundation works closely with law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and community-based organizations to develop research, comprehensive reports, policy briefs, model policies, and innovative programs that will support strong community- police partnerships. The Police Foundation manages the National Law Enforcement Officer Near Miss Reporting System at

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