New Canaan Police saw a 42 percent increase year-over-year in narcotics arrests in town from 2014 to 2015, officials say, driven mostly by marijuana-related incidents.
While the year-over-year rise, from 52 to 74, does include some cocaine- and heroin-related incidents, it’s mostly tickets issued for possessing a small amount of marijuana—an offense that state laws effectively decriminalized by reducing it from a misdemeanor to an infraction, according to New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski.
The proliferation of pot is reflected not only in the department’s wide-ranging effort to reduce the availability of substances available to New Canaan youth, but also to a second NCPD goal for 2016: Reduce ‘drugged’ and drunken driving incidents.
“It’s a problem for us that we are seeing it [marijuana] a lot more than before in people driving around in vehicles, it’s a major concern,” Krolikowski told NewCanaanite.com.
Yet, except in extreme cases—or, say, in cases of people driving while drunk, where standard field sobriety tests or breathalyzers may be used to develop probable cause for an arrest—it isn’t always clear, in a traffic stop where marijuana is involved, when a driver is “under the influence.”
“The state has not figured out how to prosecute it yet, they’re working on that,” the chief said.
The department now is exploring the possibility of having an officer trained as a “drug recognition expert,” Krolikowski said. That’s someone who can examine an individual, including a motorist, taking their pulse and blood pressure, among other measures, to determine whether they’re too much under the influence of a drug to operate a motor vehicle. Very few law enforcement agencies have such experts on staff, the chief said.
“Even though it is illegal to operate [a motor vehicle] on any substance, it is a matter of us developing probable cause,” Krolikowski said. “It’s a big concern. We have a lot more people driving around using marijuana inside a vehicle, and it’s a safety issue.”