WICKLIFFE, Ohio (WJW)-- The mayor of Wickliffe says his police officers are wasting time issuing misdemeanor marijuana citations and he wants them to focus on stopping more serious crimes.
Mayor John Barbish, who also serves as the city’s safety director, said a Jan. 2 incident involving a convicted felon found sleeping in his SUV, is the kind of policing he wants his officers to focus on.
Investigators said 26 year old James Cassel refused to comply with police commands to get out of his vehicle and then tried to drive away. Officers decided to use a taser to get Cassel to comply. During a search, officers found nearly $4,000 in cash in his pocket. Inside the SUV, they discovered a Glock .40 caliber handgun concealed in the console and baggies of suspected heroin.
Barbish said he applauds police for arresting the man suspected of trafficking in heroin.
When officers pulled over a 20-year-old driver and cited him for possession of a small amount of marijuana that was confiscated, the mayor wrote an email to his police chief, directing officers to begin following a new marijuana policy.
The email reads:
"This is a complete waste of our resources. I've stated before and will again, it's one thing to use the smell of cannabis as probable cause, (where we may find other drugs or guns), I can understand that, and another to issue a citation after finding nothing else in the car. This is ridiculous and will not continue given the limited resources we have.
"Pass this along to patrol immediately:
"Should you find, after searching a person or their vehicle, they are in possession of nothing other than cannabis for obvious personal use, NO CITATION SHALL BE ISSUED AND NO CANNABIS SHALL BE CONFISCATED."
Barbish told FOX 8 News that he does not consider marijuana a safety issue and instead of policing pot smokers, he wants officers to pursue suspects like Cassel.
“We have limited resources and when we have limited resources, what would you rather worry about, something that kills people or something that doesn't kill people. I think that's a pretty easy decision on that part," Barbish said.
“For the last two years, he's been a proponent of medical and recreational marijuana. I've been able to dissuade him the first two years from making any changes in that, letting the police department manage it. I have no idea what sparked this," Wickliffe Police Chief Randy Ice said.
Ice said he is asking the mayor to consider the possibility that there may be unintended consequences from the liberal policy on policing marijuana possession. He said among other things, school authorities expect police to confiscate marijuana and to cite any students caught with cannabis,
Ice said ultimately, his officers must follow the mayor's new pot policy.
"He's the safety director and he can make this policy legally. He's got the authority and responsibility to do it, and I will follow his directive," Ice said.
Barbish conceded that officers can continue to use the smell of cannabis as probable cause to search a car, but maintains no citation should be given if nothing except a small amount of marijuana is found.