Marijuana has clear connections to violent behavior, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said Thursday, and he remains opposed to its legalization for recreational use.
"I would not support it based on what I know today," he said on The Daily Circuit. "When I look at my jail and I see 40,000 people a year booked into the front doors, 54 percent of the ones booked for violent offenses are under the influence of marijuana when they commit those violent offenses — you know, I've got to take a step back and say, wait a minute. There is a direct correlation."
Stanek wrote an op-ed in the Star Tribune this week in which he criticized the federal government for its decision not to challenge the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington. In that piece, he warned that the federal decision would encourage more states to follow their example.
While new information might persuade him to change his mind, he said, the information he has now is clear.
"When you show me that in a jail that books 40,000 people a year for a variety of offenses, whether drunk driving, domestic assault, rape, robbery, murder, and I don't have 54 percent of them under the influence of marijuana, maybe I'll say something different," he said. "But at this point the facts speak for themselves."
Stanek said his opposition might not extend as far as legalization of medical marijuana, which may be on the legislative agenda next year.
"Medical marijuana, there very well could be merit to that argument about why medical marijuana should be OK for those who need it or are prescribed it," he said.
From his Star Tribune piece:
This will encourage other states to legalize marijuana. There is an increased likelihood of trafficking problems across state lines...
Marijuana is an addictive gateway drug that harms Minnesota's children and public safety in every community in our state. As sheriff of Hennepin County, I am concerned that legalization of marijuana in other states and reduced federal prosecution will increase the availability of marijuana in Minnesota.