Duluth police prepare ahead of Tuesday’s marijuana legalization

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 7:24 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Starting August 1, recreational marijuana will be legal in the state of Minnesota.

“I think over the last several years, this has come through the legislation in various forms or fashions, and this year it passed,” Duluth Police Chief Mike Ceynowa said.

Under the new law, adults 21 years or older can smoke and possess up to a certain amount, depending on the form of marijuana. Minnesotans will also be able to start growing up to eight plants at home.

Retailers can start selling marijuana seeds, but selling the drug won’t be allowed until a new state department develops regulations.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the 300-page legislation in May, but questions about how to regulate the substance, including behind the wheel, remain.

“A DWI, where the sole chemical in someone’s bloodstream is THC, that is going to be much more difficult to prove and to obtain a conviction on,” Ceynowa said.

Ceynowa said, unlike alcohol, there is no roadside test to prove someone is under the influence of THC while driving. Instead, officers have to use their best judgment.

“Some of the things that you look for are bloodshot eyes, the odor of marijuana, how their thought process is working with their coordination,” Ceynowa said.

According to Ceynowa, proving impairment and prosecuting offenders will be up to the court, where he said conversations are still ongoing about what that will look like.

“Is there a level within people’s bloodstream or kind of chemical makeup that says they are definitely impaired at that time? We are not there yet,” Ceynowa said.

St. Louis County Attorney Kim Maki expects the State Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court to issue decisions on how to handle cases regarding marijuana.

“But for now, we are relying on our experience and expertise in formulating practices that will hold those who choose to consume marijuana and drive accountable,” Maki wrote in a statement.

“I don’t want to see people get harmed because we have this substance that’s always been out there,” Ceynowa said. “It’s been a part of other DWI investigations that we’ve done for years, but I do think you will see more people, at least in the beginning, using that substance.”

According to Ceynowa, drug-sniffing K-9s will still be utilized because those dogs are more trained to sniff for fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin.

He added it is important the dogs alert to marijuana to ensure everything found is under the legal limit you’re allowed to possess.

“Oftentimes you’ll find more than one drug when they’re doing a search warrant,” Ceynowa said. “You may find marijuana, and that amount may be legal to possess within that location, but the fentanyl or methamphetamine or other drugs not.”

The Duluth City Council proposed an ordinance to limit where people can smoke marijuana. The ordinance will be voted on August 14.

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