With cannabis being legalized in the State of Connecticut in 2021, and recreational locations starting to acquire licenses, the interest in recreational cannabis is primed to increase. While laws have been put in place to regulate the amount of cannabis a person may possess and how many plants can be in a household, researchers at the University of Connecticut are creating a curriculum that will allow a private company to hold trainings for law enforcement officers in another important aspect—field impairment recognition.
The $22,000 in funding for the training, which was awarded to Steve Cortese and Promesa Capital LLC, came from a joint grant application from the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration and Responsibility.org that was submitted by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. From the funding, Eric Jackson, executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, and his team, will develop the training and course materials for Cortese and his company to run a “green lab” on private property. Jackson or UConn will not be involved in the training or any handling of cannabis.
Green labs allow law enforcement to identify the various stages of impairment and perform tests that will assist its officers with identifying impaired drivers and pulling these dangerous drivers off Connecticut roads.
Connecticut was one of five states to receive the funding, and only two to use the funding to create green labs. Jackson says these green labs are crucial towards the state’s goal of increasing the amount of law enforcement officers that are Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
“Connecticut has a group of officers that are DREs, and these are police officers that have been sent out of state for training, and they observe people on all types of drugs. Most of the time they observe people at a jail facility that have had drug impairment and spend a week getting certified as a drug recognition expert,” Jackson says.
“With the legalization of cannabis, and the legislation that’s attached to it, the state has made a commitment to increasing the number of DREs and training up officers in field detection for marijuana.”
The need for training has also increased because the new legislation calls for a DRE to come in when a fatal or serious injury crash occurs, to determine whether the crash was accidental or a manslaughter charge is warranted, Jackson says.
With all those new initiatives, and the anticipated increase in usage while driving, Jackson says these green labs are not only crucial in Connecticut, but any state that’s considering legalizing recreational cannabis.
“These labs are critical for helping officers understand and determine intoxication. If a person is under the influence of marijuana, some of the signs may be subtle. You may have chronic smokers that use and smoke a lot, and they’re physically impaired, but they’re able to mask it well. These trainings will give law enforcement the ability to tell if somebody’s impaired, even when they’re not acting impaired.”
Jackson says his team should be done with the curriculum and ready to hand it over to Cortese and his team by the end of the year.