A message from President Steckler - Passage of laws in Colorado and Washington that will legalize marijuana

December 6, 2012

Dear IACP Member:
I am writing you today about a great concern to me, the recent passage of laws in Colorado and Washington that will legalize marijuana. In addition to these two laws which outright legalize marijuana, 18 other states have some form of “medical” marijuana legalization on the books. The IACP is strongly opposed to these statutes and is extremely worried that these states have passed laws that preempt federal law, which clearly classifies marijuana as an illegal substance.

First and foremost, the IACP is extremely troubled about the negative impact legalized marijuana will have on highway safety. Those advocating legalization compare smoking marijuana to the equivalent of drinking a glass of wine or beer. However, most people who partake in an alcoholic drink do not do it for the purpose of impairment—this is not so with smoking marijuana.
Further, do the state laws preempt drug-free workplace laws and how will employers address these competing laws? With the new laws in Colorado and Washington, how can law enforcement or the private sector now enforce drug-free workplace laws? Because it does not appear that either state has addressed this issue, it is highly likely that employers in these states who do try and enforce their drug-free workplace policies could be subjected to litigation.

I am all too familiar with proposals that would legalize marijuana. In 2010, my home state of California soundly rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. I strongly believe the defeat of Prop 19 was only made possible by the hard work of the California Police Chiefs Association and its members for their tireless efforts to ensure that the citizens of California understood the dangers that legalized marijuana posed to them, their families and their communities. The California Chiefs were at the forefront of this effort and helped drive home the simple truth that legalizing narcotics will not make life better for the citizens of California, ease the level of crime and violence in its communities nor reduce the threat faced by its law enforcement officers.

I would like to thank the Colorado and Washington Chiefs of Police for their hard work to try and defeat proposals in their state. I would also like to thank the Oregon Chiefs who worked tirelessly to defeat a similar ballot initiative in their state and were successful in doing so. Before the passage of the state laws, both organizations, along with the IACP, also sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to speak out on these proposals. The IACP has a long-standing resolution, continually voted on by our international membership, which vigorously opposes any attempts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. The IACP will continue to speak out on the national and state level and continue to support law enforcement in any state fighting legalization proposals.

We must all work together to continue to fight legalization efforts. We cannot have laws on the books that put state, local and tribal law enforcement in an uncomfortable and confusing situation. We cannot have state laws—like those in Colorado and Washington—that preempt federal law by legalizing marijuana.
As such, last week I wrote President Obama outlining concerns I mentioned in this letter and others and asked him for his leadership on this issue and copy of my letter can be found on the IACP website. I have also asked IACP Executive Director Bart Johnson to have the IACP staff work with the law enforcement leadership in Colorado and Washington to address the issues the recently passed laws present to law enforcement and how these issues can be worked through. Additionally, I have asked staff to coordinate with the appropriate IACP committees and sections that have subject matter expertise on the issue of legalization.
Just yesterday the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement from the Western District of the State of Washington, which reads:

The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington State. The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6th in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
I thank you for your dedication to this issue and other issues confronting the law enforcement community today. I welcome your feedback and ideas as to how we can fight legalization from spreading any further. We must all work together on this most important issue.


President Craig Steckler