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Maryland rules on past marijuana use may hurt police recruiting, chief says

Maryland rules regarding marijuana use make it harder to recruit new police officers, Montgomery County’s chief says.

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Even though cannabis is legal in the state, recruits have to be pot-free for three years before applying.

“Having a legal drug become a barrier to increasing law enforcement seems like it’s a bad policy,” said Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard.

In a letter sent last April to the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police and a county council member asked the commission to modify its regulations. The commission agreed to conduct a study.

“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.

Officials say they want to have more local flexibility on marijuana use in the hiring process.

Once on the force, officers are barred from any kind of cannabis use.

By comparison, D.C. police require recruits to be marijuana-free for three months before applying.

“It’s a big issue now, but it’s going to become an increasingly large issue as more people who have consumed with legalization consider policing, they realize they’re ineligible, that’s when we expect to see a bigger drop-off in applications,” Stoddard said.

If the commission doesn’t make a change, the county will work with lawmakers in Annapolis on possible legislation that could give them the flexibility they want.

Montgomery County police are down 175 officers. The department already offers $20,000 signing bonuses and plans to hire a firm to help with recruiting.

Fairfax County police say there is no specific ban on past marijuana use for its new applicants. They’re handled on a case-by-case basis.


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