The police chief of Montgomery County, Maryland, has called for a revision of the state rule that prohibits police recruits from having used cannabis for at least three years before applying. He said the rule is hurting the state’s law enforcement recruitment efforts, especially in the context of cannabis legalization.
Cannabis Use Rule Creates a Barrier for Police Recruitment
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, who is also the head of the Fraternal Order of Police and a county council member, wrote a letter to the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission last year, asking them to modify the regulations regarding cannabis use by prospective police officers. He said the rule is outdated and unrealistic, given that cannabis is legal in the state for medical and recreational purposes.
“I think in today’s environment, where we are with the legalization of cannabis, that has now restricted law enforcement agencies, particularly larger agencies, across the state,” Jones said in a News4 report.
He said the rule is limiting the pool of qualified and diverse candidates who want to join the police force, and that the county needs more local flexibility on the issue.
Maryland Commission Agrees to Conduct a Study
The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, which sets the minimum standards for police hiring and training in the state, agreed to conduct a study on the impact of the cannabis use rule on police recruitment. The commission said it would consult with various stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, medical experts, and civil rights groups, to gather data and opinions on the matter.
The commission said it would also review the policies of other states and jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, and how they handle the issue of past cannabis use by police applicants. According to a comparison by News4, D.C. police require recruits to be cannabis-free for three months before applying, while Fairfax County police handle each case individually, without a specific ban.
Montgomery County Police Face Staffing Shortage
The Montgomery County Police Department, which is the largest in the state, is facing a staffing shortage of 175 officers. The department has been offering $20,000 signing bonuses and plans to hire a firm to help with recruiting. The department also wants to increase its diversity and representation of the community it serves.
Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said that the cannabis use rule is creating a barrier for attracting and retaining new officers, especially younger and more progressive ones.
“Having a legal drug become a barrier to increasing law enforcement seems like it’s a bad policy,” Stoddard said.
He said that if the commission does not make a change, the county will work with lawmakers in Annapolis to propose legislation that could give them the flexibility they want. He said that the county does not intend to allow current officers to use cannabis, but only to relax the restrictions on past use by applicants.