The Pismo Beach Police Department says recreational marijuana may be driving down the drug-related crime in the city, but also could be connected an increase in DUI offenses.
According to the department's annual report, narcotics offenses in 2017 dropped by 33 percent from the previous year. The report partially credits the drop to "changes in the Legislature legalizing recreational marijuana."
"Obviously, if we are comparing 2016 and 2015, when possession was illegal, we can see that drop now that it is legal," Pismo Beach Police Chief Jake Miller said.
However, the report also stated that legalization may have also been the reason that DUIs in the city increased by 34 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Miller indicated that the explanation in the report was just a theory, and said that the department would be examining the data further to determine if there was any connection. That will be easier since the department hired a dedicated crime analyst in early January.
"Those numbers are being run now," Miller said. "We look forward to seeing those results."
Passed by California voters in November 2016, Proposition 64 legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Under the auspices of the law, adults over 21 years old can now possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana for recreational purposes. Individuals are also permitted to grow up to six plants in their home as long as the area is not visible from a public place and is locked.
While marijuana is now legal, driving while high is still a crime. Both before and after Proposition 64's passage, opponents raised concerns that legalization could lead to an increase in DUIs in the state. In Washington state, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana was 105 in 2016, up from just 12 in 2012.
Proposition 64 may not be the only state law that's had an impact on the Pismo police department's operations and drug arrests. Passed in 2014, Proposition 47 reduced several felony drug related crimes to misdemeanors. According to a 2017 report by the nonprofit Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, felony drug arrests in California dropped by 67 percent from 2014 to 2017.
At a March 20 presentation to the Pismo Beach City Council, Miller said that the department reassigned its officer participating in the SLO County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force to the sheriff's Gang Task Force.
"With all of the changes that came through Prop. 47 that decriminalized some of the drug laws, there was just less of an impact with our dedicated office in that program," Miller told the council. Δ