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Police Shortage: Is Cannabis Testing Keeping Qualified Recruits Out Of The Force?

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There is already a nationwide shortage of police officers and testing for past cannabis use among young recruits is not helping matters. 

An Arizona newspaper takes a look at how the police force in Chandler, the fourth most populous town in Arizona (pop. 285,000), is experiencing a shortage for this reason and it’s happening across the country. 

Oh, yeah, Arizona legalized recreational marijuana use in 2020 and medical marijuana in 2010. 

Police Shortage Intersects With Cannabis

“I was talking to some of our recruiters just the other day, and I said, ‘What’s the biggest thing that’s disqualifying people right now?’ and he said, ‘recreational or medical marijuana use,’” said Michael Collins, president of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association.  “So we’re not even allowing people to be officers based on that.” 

National Shortage

The Police Executive Research Forum reported in April 2023 that departments across the nation are unable to hire enough people to keep up. 

“If you walk into any police department or sheriff’s office across the country today, you will probably hear about one issue more than any other: staffing. Countless chiefs and sheriffs have told me that they’re seeing fewer and fewer applicants and are having trouble retaining the officers and deputies they already have. With so many agencies experiencing staffing shortages at the same time, this is a national problem,” was the lead communication to members on the Police Executive Research website.

Not All States Abide With These Restrictions

Meanwhile, some states are no longer testing employees and recruits for cannabis, says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Michigan, Nevada and Washington have eliminated pre-hire cannabis testing.

“It’s reasonable for employers to expect sobriety on the job,”. “But requiring would-be hires and employees to undergo urine screens for past cannabis exposure are invasive and ineffective,” Armentano said. 

“They neither identify workers who may be under the influence nor contribute to a safe work environment.”

He noted that six states and the District of Columbia have eliminated testing for employees: California, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. 



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