Buckley police officer to become certified marijuana technician

One of Buckley's finest is undergoing training to become a state-certified marijuana technician for his department.

Kevin Goss, an officer with the Buckley Police Department, began training in December and will be able to be certified within months. Having a marijuana technician on staff will allow the department to make full and accurate analyses of plant matter confiscated during arrests.

The initial training consists of a three- to four-day course sponsored by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. Aspiring technicians are run through a battery of random samples, of which they must conduct a chemical test and an examination with microscope.

"Throughout the week, we probably analyze a couple hundred samples," Goss said.

To complete certification, candidates have to complete 10 marijuana cases within six months of the class, double-checked by WSP Crime Lab, and have their department laboratory space examined to ensure it has proper equipment (electronic scale, 40x microscope and refrigerator) and that it is well-maintained for regular use. Once certified, technicians must complete 12 cases per year and continue functioning as a technician for a minimum of three years.

A marijuana technician and laboratory will be a boon to the local department. Police departments that do not have their own analysis capabilities must rely on commercially-sold testing kits to obtain a justifiable reason to file drug charges against an arrestee. The so-called NIK tests are similar to home pregnancy tests in that they rely on a chemical reaction to yield a color result; also, the test can result in a significant percentage of false positives.

"(The lab) test takes any kind of uncertainty out of the equation," Goss said.

The lab testing process is quick – about five minutes – once the tester is familiar with the signs that a sample is in fact cannabis, he said. The trade-off is that technicians have to pay attention to all sorts of minute details that arise from unique cases in order for the evidence to hold up in court. The weight of the confiscated drugs, in particular, determines the seriousness of possession charges. Factors like plastic bags and the root bulbs of plants must be removed from the final weight of the evidence.

In Buckley, marijuana is an item that plays into arrests sporadically. From a patrol perspective, most marijuana arrests seem to occur from highway traffic stops where a driver passing through town is found to be in possession, Goss said.

Overall, it is not more of a problem in Buckley than any other area. Goss took on the training out of pure interest in the process, he said.

"People have this incorrect perception that it (marijuana) is legal," he said. "So they'll smoke it, carry it, sell it without thinking of it as a crime."

Goss has been a police officer with the Buckley Police Department for more than two years. He was previously employed with the Tacoma Police Department and was police reservist in eastern Washington.

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