A Unique Course Aims To Teach Cops About Cannabis

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Few relationships are as historically fraught as that between United States law enforcement and users and purveyors of cannabis. In the legalization era, that’s a problem — and one company has stepped up to close the gap. California cannabis educational group Green Flower Media has served over 10,000 people with its online marijuana educational courses, and it recently announced a new seminar that may be the first of its kind. Starting next year, it will be offering a training program for cops who are looking to learn the ins and outs of legal weed.

The course came about via a strategic partnership with a police chief from the beach town of Port Hueneme, California. Though the city’s county had previously opted out of recreational or medicinal cannabis sales, Port Hueneme’s budget deficit of $1 million compelled local authorities to reconsider their relationship to the cannabis industry.

There was much pushback to the idea of legalizing local marijuana sales; many thought that legal weed would bring in crime. When retail cannabis sales were finally permitted in eight dispensaries within the 22,500-person jurisdiction and a five percent tax on gross sales enacted, Port Hueneme saw results to the tune of $175,000 a month in city revenue — not to mention a concurrent dip in local crime rates.

Some 45,000 people visit the town’s cannabis stores each month, resulting in 210 jobs that would not have existed without marijuana. The town has also been able to purchase a hundred new beds for its homeless shelter, and to fund a Fourth of July fireworks show with the additional one percent of gross sales that cannabis companies are required to donate to a local fund.

That, says Port Hueneme police chief Andrew Salinas, has made it all the easier for his cops to shift their relationship to cannabis. But they were still without some of the key pieces of knowledge they needed to effectively work within the new legal system.

The chief says this is not a matter of ideology; “We are not pro-cannabis, we are pro-enforcement and pro-regulation.” But Salinas took steps to make sure his force was apprised of how legal cannabis worked. The process involved surprising levels of integration of the local cops with the town’s cannabis industry.

“I wanted my officers to be comfortable with these locations and nearly all officers have been given tours and shown the security features of each dispensary,” Salinas says, adding that there is a remote access system set up in all dispensaries that allows the cops to watch over the properties. “The officers and the owners absolutely love this,” Salinas says. “Not to mention, our dispatch center has an iPad which possesses each dispensary’s security video system so they can give officers updates should a call be created. They have full view of the interior and exterior of the location.” He says that the close relationship has encouraged dispensaries to report other illegal cannabis businesses to law enforcement, which in turn has the potential to strengthen the control of the legal industry.

A New Kind of Education

Salinas has had success delivering six educational forums on marijuana for curious community members in his area. “They have all been sold out,” he says. “Why? Because people want to hear the right information from a credible source who has the facts.” That proactive approach to cop-cannabis interaction led Green Flower Media founder Max Simon to see him as a natural partner for the company.

“Chief Salinas was so focused on education and being a good steward of sound cannabis governance,” Simon tells High Times. “He was immediately excited about the idea of creating education and training programs with Green Flower.”

The one-session class will cover topics such as the difference between state and local cannabis regulations; the laws of possession, driving, impairment and consumption; the rights of cannabis delivery drivers and dispensary workers; how to respond to cannabis complaints; and what to do when criminal intent is suspected.

“The course is necessary for helping law enforcement understand this new landscape,” says Simon, who started the California company in 2014 with Stephanie Graziano. “That way they can both be more effective in their role, while also being more understanding to cannabis consumers and professionals.”

Simon says the class will be available online from the Green Flower Media website starting in the second quarter of 2020. The company also offers classes on everything from medicinal uses of cannabis to cultivation techniques, legal compliance tips for businesses, and a how-to on cannabis extraction methodology.

Hopefully, the new course for police will help to educate law enforcement agents so that they are no longer operating under the flawed logic of the war on drugs. “We want the correct information being disseminated to our officers and to the public,” says Salinas. “There are so many myths and preconceived notions about cannabis that we feel can be answered.”

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