State Politics

Used pot recently? Want to be an Idaho police officer? Lawmakers weigh relaxed rule

Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian.
Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian. Idaho Statesman file

Prospective police officers in Idaho could be barred from certification if they’ve used marijuana in the past year, rather than in the last three years, under a new rule approved Wednesday.

“This is a minimum standard that agencies will not be able to drop below,” Victor McCraw, division administrator of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) for the Idaho State Police, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. McCraw said it’s likely some agencies will stick with the higher standard.

The rules also will change the minimum time limit to exclude an applicant for marijuana use on a “regular, confirmed basis” to within the last three years, rather than the current five years. McCraw said that’s easier both for applicants to remember and for investigators to confirm.

McCraw told the senators that it doesn’t matter whether a prospective officer’s past marijuana use was legal or not — just whether it happened.

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, said he has “a hard time believing” that prospective officers can’t remember how often or when they last used pot.

“I personally would like to see the stricter standards stay in place,” Foreman said. “I don’t have any tolerance for illegal drug use, I’ve seen its effects.”

He asked, “Is any of this lowering the standards recruitment-driven?”

Jeff Lavey, Meridian police chief and chairman of the POST Council, said he plans to keep the three-year rule for hiring. But he said he had to delay hiring an experienced officer with a military background because he’d used marijuana once, two years and 10 months ago. “There’s times where there may be a particular incident where someone has used poor judgment, but falls within this category,” Lavey said.

He added that the matter “absolutely” has to do with recruitment. “We are surrounded by every single state that has some form of (legal) marijuana, whether it is medical or recreational,” he said.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, thanked McCraw for bringing forward the change, which was recommended by the POST Council.

Foreman ended up making the motion to approve the rule. It was seconded by Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and passed unanimously.

Agency rules become final in Idaho unless they’re rejected by both the applicable House and Senate committees; the new pot rule still needs to be considered by the House panel, but the Senate committee’s support for the rule change means it will stand.