Drug strike force managing continued ambiguity around marijuana law

Jan. 24—Law enforcement officers are still facing uncertainties regarding marijuana regulations and guidelines in the Buchanan County area.

Capt. Shawn Collie of the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force said they are seeing issues on a number of different fronts.

"Our understanding from the state level is basically there's nothing in place yet. It's just kind of a very awkward time for us to ... trying to enforce laws and protect our citizens in a time where laws are being passed that nobody really understands or can follow," Collie said. "For us, we try to take a very careful approach and give the benefit of the doubt to the citizen."

The strike force's concerns about marijuana regulations include employment and use in apartments, duplexes and on federal property like college campuses.

Officers are also concerned with what will happen with crime rates.

"With anything else you have, you know, marijuana users who are using it for medical or recreational, who have never committed a crime and would not commit another crime or harm anybody," Collie said. "But when you look at the money involved in marijuana ... that concerns us as far as where you start seeing home invasions, you start seeing robberies and other criminal elements."

Collie said the hope is to receive further clarification and guidelines in the near future so that all law enforcement officers can serve the citizens to the best of their ability.

"A lot of it is just clear language and simplify it for the residents of Missouri. When you have this much confusion from government down to the citizen, there's obviously an issue that needs addressed," Collie said. "We want to protect the citizens' rights ... not go into doing our job with doubts or not understanding what the guidelines and laws are."

Collie said the community can help ease confusion by doing their own research.

"Try to educate yourself, ask the questions, try to make calls to your legislatures to get this cleared up," Collie said.

While there are differing opinions from residents on marijuana, the drug strike force will continue its job of protecting the rights of the citizens they serve.

"We have to try to take into account citizens from both sides and try to determine, through a prosecutor's office or through the court systems, what's going to be considered illegal or what's going to be prosecutable and what is going to be more of a civil obviously, at the state level. But we're not being told specifically right now ... it's just the unknown," Collie said.

Collie said he sees the city and county working together as they move forward with marijuana.

"We have every intention of working together, city and county, state," Collie said. "It's something that we'll continue to work together on."

Riley Funk can be reached at riley.funk@newspressnow.com.