9 Investigates law enforcement's uphill medical marijuana battle



ORLANDO, Fla. - In November, voters will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. But 9 Investigates uncovered some serious questions about the true cost of legalizing pot.

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath learned the financial impact may be felt beyond election day.

"Is law enforcement ready for Florida to have something like medical marijuana?" asked Heated.

"We are never going to be ready for what this medical marijuana will bring," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Judd, who is the president of the Florida Sheriff's Association, is already exploring just what it will cost to train deputies to deal with abuse of the system, including enforcing regulations on sales and identifying people who are under the influence.

Studies indicate the standard filed sobriety test is not nearly as effective on people who are high versus drunk.

"Instead of a simple Breathalyzer, which is not intrusive at all, now we need to take a blood or urine test," said Judd.

According to a report obtained by 9 Investigates from the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the state is expecting at least a $1.1 million cost per year just for regulation.

The report also lays out added law enforcement costs but warns those costs won't be known until after the law goes into effect.

"We will have plenty of states to look to, to see what works and what doesn't," said Rep. Randolph Bracy.

Bracy, who is sponsoring a bill for recreational marijuana, points out Florida will not be the first state to legalize medical marijuana.

Proponents said enforcement costs will be offset by taxes on pot, although nobody knows exactly what those numbers will be.

In Colorado, where both recreational and medical marijuana are legal, an internal state audit found serious flaws in enforcement.

Part of the problem is that if states tax marijuana too high, business will go to the black market. If the state doesn't tax high enough, then there isn't enough money for enforcement, experts said.