UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR-TV)– Oneida County sheriff Rob Maciol does not hide his disdain for the new legalization of marijuana bill. During the latest Board of Legislators meeting, the sheriff spoke passionately to the board about his concerns. Maciol does not believe that the county or state is prepared to handle what is coming, mostly because he believes the state legalized the drug before learning from mistakes made in other states.
“It’s a huge concern for us because we look at statistics in other states that have legalized marijuana their traffic accidents caused by when the operators are under the influence of marijuana have exploded,” Maciol explained. “And especially when it comes to personal injury and fatal car accidents. So it’s not a question of if it’s when and where and we need to be prepared for it and we’re not. I’m going to be honest with you, we’re not prepared for what is coming our way.”
In addition, Maciol is concerned about the lack of officers in his department who are properly trained to identify people and drivers who are under the influence of marijuana. Unlike alcohol, where police can pull a driver over and give them a breathalyzer test there is currently no detection test for marijuana. Instead, there are officers specifically trained to identify if someone is under the influence of drugs called Drug Recognition Experts.
“They basically do a series of field sobriety tests that you would typically see them doing on the roadside when you are dealing with a DWI,” Maciol said. “They also take blood pressure and temperature and various vital signs, they also have some specialized other tests they put the individuals through and then they use their training and expertise to determine if they are under the influence of a drug and from there an arrest is made.”
Currently, there are only two officers in Maciols department who are Drug Recognition Experts, Maciol believes his department alone will need eight DRE’s. Currently funding for DREs is only being offered by the state to the New York State Police and Maciol is not sure where his department will get the funds to train additional officers.
The training to become a DRE takes eight weeks and training is not currently being offered in New York State, Maciol has sent people all the way to florida to receive the training in the past.