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Advocates and opponents debate possible public safety impacts of marijuana legalization

Delaware Public Media

Marijuana legalization advocates and opponents debated Wednesday whether allowing adult recreational use will jeopardize public safety.

Motor safety advocates and law enforcement officers say they oppose legalizing marijuana.

Bill Bryson of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council said federal law bars people who use marijuana from owning guns. Background check forms ask if the applicant uses pot and it’s a felony to lie on the question.

“We think Delaware users of marijuana should have a notation on their driver’s license that says they’re a marijuana user," he said. "That’s the only way they would be able to purchase it legally. That would also prohibit them from purchasing firearms.”

But Sen. Margaret Rose Henry said noting that on driver’s licenses is a slippery slope and she doesn’t support the idea.

“People who use drugs now own guns and you just don’t know it," she said. "So why would you put an unfair burden on people who smoke marijuana? The fact that you smoke marijuana doesn’t automatically say that you’re a bad person.That you can’t control your emotions.”

Law enforcement officers also say they would face significant costs to replace drug detection dogs or retrain them not to react to marijuana. They also argue the state crime lab’s workload would swell to keep up with testing what they believe with be an increase in the number of impaired drivers.

An AAA representative said marijuana use leads to more car accidents and traffic deaths. The auto group cites data from Colorado and Washington to support their argument. But legalization advocates dispute that claim. They said the data shows no significant difference in traffic fatality rates in those two states compared with states that haven’t legalized pot.

The cannabis task force meets one more time in January before finalizing its report to the General Assembly.

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