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News Story
Updated: 06/11/2014 09:06:07AM

Police Chief warns against medical marijuana

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PHOTO BY BRENDA EGGERT BRADER


Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez.

By BRENDA EGGERT BRADER

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Floridians will decide the fate of the use of medical marijuana in their state in November. To prepare the citizens of Lake Wales for that vote, Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez addressed the Lake Wales Kiwanians on June 2 and enlightened the group on the topic of medical marijuana.

“I am against (legalization of) it,” said Chief Velasquez. “I don’t want our city or state to go downhill. We have such good momentum right now.”

Velasquez offered several statistics and read a partial list of those state and national organizations against the legalization of medical marijuana.

“Twenty-five percent of all fatalities worked are connected with marijuana use,” Velasquez said. “If you think DUI, think about people getting to that point even faster by smoking it. Studies show that marijuana potency has tripled over the years. We have a number of kids smoking marijuana now. Do we want to double it? From 1991 to 2001, the number of eighth-graders smoking marijuana has doubled.”

At this point (in the planned legalization in Florida) there is no set distribution. Children will be able to get it without their parents’ knowledge.

The police chief asked the Kiwanians if they would like to have a dispensary for the marijuana in Lake Wales and queried those who are employers as to where do you draw the line for who is at risk?

“What am I supposed to do as a police chief and one of my officers comes to work with the odor of marijuana on him and he smoked a joint on the way to work?” Velasquez asked the group. “We are talking high octane stuff that would put you in a stupor.”

He also is concerned about his canines trained to smell the odor of marijuana and if they discover the smell in a traffic stop, how will the officers know if it is medical? Velasquez cited a partial listing of those who are against having the medical marijuana in Florida — the Florida Sheriffs’ and the Florida Chief of Police Associations, the American Cancer Society, the National Eye Institute, the National Scoliosis Society.

“These are good folks. We are not against relief to those who are suffering, but that relief can be extracted and prescribed in a pill form. This legislation will open the flood gates for other drugs.”

Valasquez said that marijuana leads to harder and other drugs, not because of the smoking of it, but because if you tried that drug people who use congregate together. Then they meet those who use other drugs and decide to try those other drugs.

In other police procedure, Velasquez shared his new Lake Wales patrol program that features patrols that are more directed and focused. Studies have shown it is better to focus on trouble areas where the “bad guys are.” He states the department has had continued success with the program.

Velasquez has been with the department for 21 years and has been police chief for three years.


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