A Q&A interview with Muscatine Police Capt. Steve Snider
By Gage Thompson
Cannabis legalization is about one month away in Illinois. In Iowa however, the law stays the same. “… If you intend to use it you’d better use it all there before you come back home,” says Captain Steve Snider of the Muscatine Police Department.
Steve Snider has been the Captain of Patrol Division with the Muscatine Police Department since 2010. Prior to serving as captain he had worked a number of assignments, including eight years as a K9 officer, and 14 years in charge of tactical teams. He’s put in a lot of work and a lot of years. Recently I spoke with Captain Snider about the possible implications of recreational cannabis legalization in Illinois for those of us living on the other side of the river. Here’s what he had to say.
How do you expect the new laws in Illinois to effect the citizens of Muscatine?
“I don’t really expect a change. It’s not legal in Iowa and that hasn’t changed with the legalization in Illinois. Whether we see an increase in arrests, traffic accidents, or things like that pertaining to impaired drivers coming from Illinois remains to be seen but I don’t anticipate a whole lot of change here.”
Is your department taking any precautionary measures in advance of the new laws?
“No, I’m rather unconcerned with what Illinois does. It’s a violation if you’re in possession of it. You’ll get charged and you’ll go to court.”
How often do issues related to cannabis come up for the department?
“I don’t do too much of that work anymore. I’m not out on the street a whole lot. Marijuana has obviously been a problem just as a lot of other drugs in our community have. Those who are found importing it, dealing it, are dealt with and prosecuted just how any other drug would be. I don’t know that it’s any more popular than it has been. We’re seeing some of the kids out of the school with a lot of the vaping THC stuff. If anything has become a little more popular it’s the vaping tubes and that stuff that’s getting circulated around.”
Are there new procedures for dealing with these new forms of THC?
“No, it’s still constituted as illegal cannabis and they get prosecuted just as much as they would if they’d been in possession of the actual stuff. It’s illegal and it’s going to remain the same as if they’d had the actual plant. They get laboratory tested for traces of cannabinoid and THC. Even the plant that we seize we test that. That procedure is similar for both products and there’s really not any issue with either side of it as far as the detection stuff.”
There has been a lot of talk about CBD and police intervention with local businesses selling CBD. What is the department’s stance on that?
“Well, it’s a cannabinoid product and cannabinoids are illegal in Iowa whether they contain THC or not. There’s no clinically proven evidence that CBD is this medical wonder drug that many are proclaiming it to be. The legislation has gone ahead of the science in many states. If you really research the clinical side of it you’ll find there’s very little imperial evidence out there that demonstrates the effectiveness. There’s a lot of claims, there’s a lot of people who say it does great things, but the medical science isn’t there yet to back it. It may well do those things but the medical science isn’t there yet to back up those claims. What you have is a huge lobbying group that sees a lot of potential for tax dollars and business growth and they’re promoting it based on those ideals rather than the science. That can be a very powerful argument for people, especially politicians, but we’re a fact-driven agency. We follow the facts in our investigations. You don’t operate on assumptions or unproven conclusions so that’s where we’re at with it.
If they come out and prove the stuff has a medical value then I’m all for it. Send it out there and let people use it. But right now CBD is claimed to resolve everything from muscle soreness to epilepsy seizures to helping you sleep better at night. All these claims are surrounding it, but nothing really supports that medically.”
What should the general public know about recreational cannabis?
“They should know that just because it’s legal in another state doesn’t mean it’s legal to transport it back to your state. That just means it’s legal for you to go there and buy it. So if you intend to use it you’d better use it all there before you come back home. It doesn’t just make it legal. There’s the argument that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, you’ll hear that again and again. Today’s marijuana isn’t the marijuana you’d see 30 years ago. There are studies now showing chronic use of high THC marijuana induces psychosis, or at least compliments the development of psychosis. There are side effects that come with this stuff. People with addictive disorders can fall victim to a lot of that recreational stuff. It can do damage to people. I would exercise caution if you’re thinking of experimenting with the stuff.”
What are your personal thoughts on Illinois decision to legalize?
“I don’t live in Illinois so it doesn’t really matter to me. They can do what they want and it really doesn’t affect me here. We’ve had marijuana here before any legalization process took place and we’ll have it here after it takes place and we’ll just continue to deal with it the way we always have.”