Ocala police chief: ‘Marijuana legalization will produce more violent crime in Ocala’

Monday, May 10, 2021

Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken
Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken

The chief of the Ocala Police Department believes the legalization of marijuana will produce more violent crime in the city of Ocala.

Mike Balken, who was appointed after the sudden passing of Greg Graham in October, made the remarks on Wednesday morning during a meeting of the Ocala/Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership.

“There’s a lot of talk about marijuana legalization. I don’t care what side of the coin you’re on, it doesn’t really matter to me. I can tell you this: If it gets – when it gets legalized recreationally, that will cost the police department $100,000 in canines,” said Balken.

Balken went on to explain that the department’s current collection of canines who have been imprinted to track marijuana would need to be retrained.

He suggested that the “vast majority” of violent, criminal offenders in Ocala are frequently detained after an officer alerts to the smell or presence of marijuana.

“We will also have more violent crime in the city. The vast majority of our illegal firearms are carried by known violent, felony offenders” said Balken. Along with the removal of chokeholds, he suggested that too many tools were being taken away from officers in the field.

“Whether you’re for or against it, the stance around the country from law enforcement executives is that it’s yet another tool that you’re removing from the cops’ tool belt to make them avoid a violent confrontation or officer involved shooting,” said Balken.

Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Ocala, the state of Florida, and around the nation? Share your thoughts in a comment, a letter to the editor, or through our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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