ELKO – Marijuana laws have seen drastic changes since the beginning of the year but not a lot has changed for law enforcement.
More than seven months into having recreational marijuana being legalized, Elko and West Wendover police are not seeing any significant increase in marijuana-related arrests.
West Wendover Police Department often issues citations for marijuana possession, depending on the amount found and the totality of the situation.
West Wendover Police Lt. Don Lininger said his officers are not often dealing with marijuana-related incidents.
“Now that it’s legal, I haven’t seen a huge influx in it,” he said. “We haven’t been called into the casinos on any complaints regarding public use of the marijuana. The security guards usually handle that on their own. They’ll tell them that they can’t smoke that here, and they’ve been compliant, so we haven’t been called in.”
Lininger also added that while marijuana arrests have remained stable, his department has been issuing fewer citations for marijuana possession this year.
West Wendover police recently made an arrest when the three occupants of a vehicle were found to have nine pounds of marijuana in the car, but people who have committed crimes with smaller amounts of marijuana in their possession may not be charged for it.
“We have people that have been arrested on other charges such as domestic, DUI or trespass that have had marijuana on their person and we have been confiscating that but not charging them with it. We’re just using a lot more discretion with that.”
In Elko the arrest numbers have remained stable as well. According the police department there has not been any significant change in the number of marijuana possession arrests but Lt. Ty Trouten said the City does not typically make a lot of arrest on those types of offenses.
“I don’t think marijuana arrests have typically been a high number for us in recent years,” he said. “There aren’t any significant drops or increases of anything right now.”
Though not drastically different than their tests for other intoxicants, police also have to deal with impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana.
Testing for marijuana now requires a blood test instead of a urine test but Trouten said the typical sobriety tests should help an officer decide if a driver is impaired by marijuana.
“There are field sobriety tests that are standardized to show if a person is under the influence of something,” he said. “If they are under the influence and they perform poorly on those tests, it’s just like with alcohol ... if you get somebody who can’t pass those test then you go for the blood draw.”
Elko and West Wendover have both had discussions in city council meetings as they try to project the impact a dispensary could have in either city.
Consumption of marijuana has not caused too many complications for local law enforcement but dispensaries can only accept payments in cash, which could make these new businesses targets for robberies.
Trouten said keeping these places safe could be a challenge.
“You’re a cash-only business, which means you’re a ripe target for someone who’s looking to roll you,” he said. “One of our guys was in Reno the other day and he said the line was down the block and up the street for their dispensary. It’s going to be a big business, at least initially.”