Chief: Give Us Time To Adapt To Hashish Legalization

Sometimes you can see changes from a mile away.

While marijuana legalization hasn’t been disastrous, he believes authorities across the state would have more time to prepare, says Patrick Ridenhour, Danbury police chief.

He made this point and spoke about common challenges facing the police force while appearing on WNHH FM’s “Municipal Voice,” a production of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

“If there’s one criticism of the law,” said Chief Ridenhour, “it’s the speed at which it came out.”

When Governor Lamont signed Senate Bill 1201 on June 22, it took less than 10 days for marijuana use to become legal in the state.

“I don’t think we’ve been given enough time to train, not enough guidance so that our people know exactly what they can and can’t do,” said Rindenhour.

So much material is in the 300-page bill that many communities are holding back retail marijuana sales to judge if it’s right for their city.

Part of what Ridenhour believes the law to be right is deleting old records because of poor marijuana possession.

“I don’t think a minor offense should ruin someone’s ability to find a decent apartment or job,” he said. “I think just a simple offense shouldn’t ruin someone for the rest of their life.”

As for employment, he is still hesitant: “You know, there are certain jobs like this where it is just not in all of our interests that we should be under the influence of any kind of drug like marijuana.”

But with legalization here, and maybe with state legalization not too far away, he said, they have to square the circle as societal norms change.

This also applies to the police in general. He argues that police officers have been called on more and more over the past 10 to 15 years “because no one else was available”.

The Police Accountability Act must change the way policing works. In particular, he advocates partnerships with social workers and mental health professionals.

“You can’t take away what the police are doing,” he argues, “but you can improve that through these partnerships.”

Ultimately, the police are a reflexive department. If people want to legalize marijuana, they can do so through a new law and the police will no longer blame it for it. If people want social workers to do carpooling, that can be done.

“It’s nice to have a room full of cheerleaders, but I don’t know if that will help move the needle,” said the boss. “It’s nice to have some people who have concerns so they can see what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and make suggestions on how we can do better.”