This month, voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize marijuana in their states. And this week, the superintendent of the Indiana State Police told his state’s lawmakers that he supports legalizing and regulating the drug.
The traditionally hard-line stance American officials have held against marijuana is relaxing in some places -- but don't expect Kentucky law enforcement to follow along.
Kentucky State Police Senior Trooper Michael Webb said on Wednesday that the agency's experience shows that the plant leads to other crimes.
“I would just reiterate that our troopers in the field, they just consistently find that the use and sale of marijuana does in fact lead to involvement in other areas of criminal activity,” he said.
It's the "gateway drug" arguments -- marijuana usage leads to the abuse of other drugs, plus thefts. This, Webb said, dispelling the belief that legalization means less crime.
And he said the KSP would continue to enforce its laws, even if neighboring states decide to legalize.
Another issue is industrial hemp, a cousin to marijuana that other countries use to manufacture a variety of goods. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Thomas Massie and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, all Republicans, support the legalization of hemp so Kentucky can take advantage of the industry.
Kentucky State Police doesn't like that idea, either.
Webb said legalized industrial hemp would distract from efforts to crack down on pot use.
“It would just create several issues on the law enforcement end that at this point we just think can be avoided,” he said.
For starers, Webb said, hemp could easily be confused with marijuana and would back up labs that would have to test for either plant.
But advocates argue that it's easy to tell which plant is which. They also argue that hemp would reduce the drug effects of marijuana if grown together -- because marijuana would inevitably cross-pollinate with hemp.