Pueblo police chief fears 'contact high' for officers

KUSA - It's an effort to clear the air in the city of Pueblo, for officers who may have to one day respond to cannabis clubs.

"I am concerned that if there are some kind of disturbance inside one of those clubs and our officers get there, they will be entering a structure that will be nothing but laden with [marijuana] smoke," Pueblo Police Chief Luis Velez said.

There are no clubs yet. The Pueblo City Council recently extended a moratorium for private clubs and pot sales. Chief Velez said if cannabis clubs do become legal there, he worries that his officers could get a contact high while on duty.

"I am very concerned that when the officers leave those premises. Are they or could they possibly be impaired-under state law?" Chief Velez said.

It's a question with no concrete answer yet, according to 9NEWS medical expert Dr. John Torres.

"One of the problems is, we don't really know a lot about marijuana because we haven't studied it too much," he said.

What they do know, Dr. John said, is that studies show getting a contact high from second-hand marijuana smoke is not easy.

"They've done these studies where they've had people in these confined rooms, where the smoke is so thick they had a hard time seeing their way through it," he explained. "They left them in these rooms for hours, and they didn't highlight in any of the drug tests."

In Denver, where cannabis clubs exist, a police spokesperson said she isn't aware of any officer getting a contact high while on the job and doesn't know if there's a policy in place regarding it.

In Pueblo, though, Chief Velez said they're trying to figure it out before the moratorium expires at the end of the year.

"What I'm hoping is that in the next eight months or so, there will be case law developed here in Colorado that might be able to lead us in a particular direction," he said.

Chief Velez said they also plan to look into how police departments are handling responses to private cannabis clubs in Washington state, where recreational pot is also legal.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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