Cannabis harm prevention messages are essential, according to police in places where the drug has been decriminalised. Government, police and health agencies need clear guidelines for public campaigns on preventing harm from cannabis use, according to new research from Massey University. Front line police officers she interviewed in the Netherlands and states of Colorado and Oregon in the United States, where recreational cannabis use is not an offence, provided insights on how their communities responded with cannabis legally available.
They said that contrary to expectations, legalising the drug did not eliminate crime related to selling it, or gangs from continuing to profit from its sale.
All of her interviewees had cannabis law reform presented as a positive change for police, yet – as one officer said, "we just have not seen all the wonderful promises that were made to us."
Others observed cannabis was a gateway to harder drugs, and one officer expressed concern that the legal cannabis industry was attempting to target children to create a future market.
Front-line police officers she interviewed noted the following issues:
- the enduring role organised crime plays in profiting from cannabis
- inconsistent police policies are exploited, resulting in erosion of perceived police effectiveness
- driving while cannabis-impaired is a largely unmitigated risk, which may be a significant factor in vehicle crashes
- cannabis regularly misused by youth causes learning difficulties and leads to poor social outcomes
- it is important, and sometimes difficult, to get harm-prevention messaging right