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Cops Say Yes to California Marijuana Legalization Measure [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #649)
Politics & Advocacy

It was a law enforcement trifecta in support of California's Proposition 19 Monday, with a phalanx of police, prosecutors, and judges coming out in support of the marijuana legalization initiative in a pair of early morning press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles and a teleconference later in the day for those unable to attend the live events. The endorsements come with Prop 19 in a very tight race and Election Day just seven weeks away.

While, unsurprisingly, a large number of California law enforcement officials have come out in opposition to Prop 19, Monday's events were designed to show that law enforcement opposition to marijuana legalization is by no means monolithic. Organizers of the events also released a letter endorsing Prop 19 signed by dozens of current and former law enforcement officials.

"As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis," the letter read. "As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We've also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market. If California's voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales."

The same themes were reprised in the three press conferences Monday. "I was with the LAPD when Nixon declared the 'War on Drugs' over 40 years ago and was one of the 'generals' on the front lines who helped implement that same failed drug policy that is still in effect today," said Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of police with the LAPD who is now a speaker with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "During my career, I not only saw the ineffectiveness of our marijuana laws up close but also witnessed the harm our prohibition approach inflicts on public safety. By keeping marijuana illegal, we aren't preventing anyone from using it. The only results are billions of tax-free dollars being funneled into the pockets of bloodthirsty drug cartels and gangs who control the illegal market."

Former LAPD sergeant and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney William John Cox added, "This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement by passing Proposition 19 to control and regulate marijuana."

"This is a very, very good opportunity to increase safety on our streets and highways, get officers out of drug law enforcement and back on patrol," said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a now retired 34-year law enforcement veteran. "In addition, it will give up more cops on the streets to focus on drunk and drugged driving. All of our police officers are trained in drug recognition,and this is an opportunity to get more cops out stopping vehicles and checking for those who are driving impaired."

Former San Jose police Chief Joseph McNamara, now a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, also took to the podium in support of Prop 19. "I've been studying drugs for years," he said, relating how he rose through the ranks of the NYPD before becoming chief in Kansas City and then San Jose. "We learned pretty quickly in New York that the people we were arresting were low-level offenders. All the arrests weren't doing any good. As cops, we felt the community would be better off if we were arresting robbers, burglars, and rapists. Enforcing prohibition took us away from protecting people on our beat," he said.

"I signed onto Prop 19 because I think it is a real opportunity for the voters to eliminate somewhere between 40 million and 200 million crimes overnight by making legal behavior that is today wasting so many law enforcement resources," McNamara continued. "Prohibition hasn't reduced the use of marijuana, and it also produces enormous funding for the cartels and the drug gangs. And violence, not because people are getting stoned on marijuana, but by the whole gangster syndrome that exists with prohibition driving prices up."

Passage of Prop 19 would be a "game changer," McNamara said. He challenged the media, which has been closely scrutinizing the measure, to apply the same rigorous evaluation to marijuana prohibition itself. "They are ignoring the details of the status quo," he said. "What do we have with this costly war against marijuana?" he asked. "Widespread violence, more use than if it were manufactured legally, and tremendous disrespect for the law."

Former federal prosecutor and California Superior Court Judge James Gray also spoke in support of Prop 19. "I was basically a drug warrior until I saw that the tougher we get with regard to nonviolent drug offenses, the softer we get with everything else because we only have so many resources in the criminal justice system," he said.

Gray also addressed the opposition's "what about the kids" argument by turning it on its head. "We are corrupting our children, not because of marijuana, but because of marijuana prohibition," he argued. "We are putting our children in harm's way. Ask our young people what's harder to get, beer or marijuana, and they will tell you it's easier to get marijuana, because alcohol is regulated and controlled by the government, and illegal marijuana dealers don't ask for ID."

Calling the Prop 19 vote "probably the most important election of my lifetime," Gray said the voters are ahead of the politicians. "I think we have a pretty good chance of doing something good for our state and for the country by passing Prop 19," he concluded.

Monday's law enforcement endorsements are just the latest in a long and ever-growing list of people and organizations lining up to support the measure, including labor unions, the National Black Police Association, the NAACP, doctors, politicians, political parties, and many more. Let's hope that list grows much longer in the remaining weeks until election day on November 2.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous9956 (not verified)

We have but one flag, one country.  Let us stand together, though we differ in addictions, but not in sentiment.  That being, no one should be arrested for a non-violent, victim-less vice.

Tue, 09/14/2010 - 1:47am Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

How can any parent think exposing their kids to a legal system is a good thing?  Better the self-aggrandizing prohibition schemes that don’t work, say, than letting them inhale one of the most benign herbal euphoriants on the planet?

Granted, crime school (jail) is as free an education as anyone gets these days.  In crime school, young women contemplating a future in fraud or prostitution can get solid information on these topics from some really professional role models. 

If little Johnny runs into tough financial problems, he can always turn to the creative money making schemes he learned in his studies on crime while jailed for being curious about pot and maybe trying to make some money off it at the same time.  An investment in crime school today is an investment in more crime tomorrow.

If you’re black or Latino in the U.S., crime school is likely to be a racist, ritualized rite to adulthood.

Two choices face California parents on November 2. 

Choice # 1:   Jail your kids for drugs (Note: policy doesn’t apply if you’re a politician).

Choice # 2:  Give your child the chance to become President of the United States.

The second choice will require California parents and all California voters who care to vote yes on Prop 19.


Tue, 09/14/2010 - 2:21am Permalink
malcolmkyle (not verified)

The illegal drug trade is now estimated to be somewhere in the region of $400 billion a year ( equal to the defense budget ). This "former land of the free" arrests 1.5 million of it's citizens a year for drug law violations, half for marijuana alone, The majority of the 2.2 million inmates in the USA are incarcerated because of this insane drug war (Prohibition 2) at a staggering cost to all taxpayers and trauma to their families.

Prisons have been filled to capacity. Violent criminals, murderers, rapists and child molesters are released early to create space for these so called drug offenders. Half of court trial time and also a huge chunk of police officers time is pointlessly wasted. Enormous untaxed profits from illegal drugs fund multi-national criminal empires which bribe law enforcement authorities and spread corruption faster than a raging bush fire. These laws take violent criminals and turn them into multi-billionaires whilst corrupting even entire countries such as Columbia, Panama, Mexico and Afghanistan. The extreme violence on and south of the border is drug gangs fighting for turf in this lucrative business. The drug laws are also funding the Taliban whose illegal opium profits allow it to buy weapons and pay it's fighters more than $300 a month, compared with the $14 paid to an Afghan policemen.

The definition of insanity is great folly, madness, extreme senselessness, lunacy. The present drug laws cause all of the above and may therefor be deemed insane.

There will be many of you who probably fear a theoretical free-for-all, but that overlooks one major point: That's exactly the situation we have at the moment. Sure, there are laws against the possession and sale of these drugs, but they have no impact on actually restricting either one. When we allow such drugs to remain in the criminal market, they finance the activities of street punks, violent gangs, drug lords and terrorists. That's why there is now such an urgent need to legalize, which will not only allow us to properly regulate these substances, but also strip the illegal cartels of their main income.

So please consider the following very carefully : It wasn't the alcohol that caused the surge in crime and homicide during alcohol prohibition, it was prohibition itself. That's why many of us find it hard to believe that the same thing is not happening now. We clearly have a prohibition fueled violent crime problem. A huge number of these violent crimes are perpetrated by criminal syndicates and gangs who use the proceeds form the sales of illegal substances to further even more of their criminal activities.

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare. We have to regulate and we have to do it now!

Tue, 09/14/2010 - 4:17am Permalink
barrack (not verified)

I wonder how many people who think marijuana should not be legalized, would be willing to sign a petition to outlaw alcohol.  Not many. Can you imagine the cops breaking down granny's door because she's having some wine or a beer. Hypocrites.

Tue, 09/14/2010 - 9:09pm Permalink
Anonymous dave man (not verified)

Actually, I don't like the idea of government  taxing marijuana. I believe we should be able to grow pot on our own land, like any other fruit or vegetable; that is grown naturally out of the soil. Unlike alcohol, which is combined with other ingredients, and shipped all over the country. Marijuana is all natural, a perfect product grown straight from the ground. Marijuana should be growing wild everywhere, so if your run out of pot, you stop by the road and pick a bag full. There is too much tax now. Its time take our freedom back. And stop the abuse of our constitutional rights, by greedy law makers.

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 12:58pm Permalink
Bongstar420 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous dave man (not verified)

We are talking about a tax on distribution. If you grow tomatoes in your backyard, you will not be taxed. If you put them up at a sales stand, you will be taxed. The taxes help support a regulatory structure to help ensure safety and purity of the product being taxed. In the case of Cannabis, the tax will increased because of puritans who wish to decrease consumption. "Sin" taxes are additional cost added to a product as a tool of social engineering by people who believe that reduced consumption of a product is good. "Sin" taxes have limits that are determined by market dynamics and social conditions. If the limit of a "sin" tax is exceeded, black markets are expanded.

I question your competency of tax regulatory structures. Please inform yourself properly as to what you are thinking and talking about.

Additionally, Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, Uranium, and Radium are "all natural" minerals. Cyanide is an "all natural" plant compound. I suggest you reassess your understanding of what the term "all natural" means, and please refrain from using "all natural" as a term in your reasoning process.

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 8:36pm Permalink
Raymond A. Weekley (not verified)

In reply to by Bongstar420 (not verified)

Thank God there are people out there like you with actual brains. This is proof positive that marijuana need not impair one's ability to reason. I've always believed that it was wrong to imprison people for doing something that did not harm others. A person with the ability to reason will understand I'm not suggesting  that a person who is whacked out should be driving a car. That would be a crime of negligence, however sitting at home composing music while enjoying cannabis does not deserve having one's door kicked in and being arrested. Surely the taxing of commercially produced pot makes good sense especially as it applies to the eradication of cartel dominated supply.

Fri, 09/17/2010 - 9:50am Permalink
Sarah T. (not verified)

A few opinions:

  • Growing a plant at home should not be taxed.
  • A distributed product from a company can be taxed
  • Hemp can be used to make ethanol with enzymes and should be legal
  • Minor offenders shouldn't lose scholarship money
  • Marijuana should be decriminalized


Thu, 09/16/2010 - 2:18pm Permalink
Carl Darby (not verified)

Reading between the lines, the quote should have read:

"As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in recognizing that the tide of public opinion is turning against us. The best way for most of us to keep our jobs and continue to make payments on our mortgages without having to switch career paths in this dismal job market is to get on the "Tax and Regulate" bandwagon. If full fledged decriminalization ever takes root we will have to compete with burger flippers at McDonalds."

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 5:15pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by Carl Darby (not verified)

This statement, that you altered, graces the Website called LEAP. cc.  They have been speaking for several years, around the country at Rotary clubs and such, saying the exact thing that was written in this article.  It has nothing to do with worrying about public opinion and everything to do with calling out the drug war as a complete, and abject, failure, (being unable to decrease illegal drug use and sales). Even after a trillion dollars spent, over the past forty, plus, years, drugs are more potent and more available, everywhere in the US!

You would benefit from going to the LEAP site and learning about the people you seem to discredit.  Watching YouTube presentations of Judge Gray, would be a great way for you too see, and understand, an example  of the LEAP organizations thought processes.  They have seen the failure in the criminal justice system, as related to the "drug war". Sad thing is, many have to be retired before they come out, or risk losing their jobs! (And I, personally, know that is not any fun!)

If the tide of opinion is turning against the LEAP members, then the premise, behind this entire article, is faulty.  That, really, seems to be just the opposite of what is happening with us and LEAP.

Sat, 09/18/2010 - 3:24pm Permalink
D.D.Huffman (not verified)

Hello...I cannot use any big words or complicated phrases but i can say that i beat CANCER 3 years ago and i could not have done it.....if it wasn't for MED(Prop 215). It was not an option for me to have surgery so it was radiation+chemotherapy which make it very hard to eat or be hungry(with out it coming back up). I would have died and owe it all to cannabis.  I do not use it now but if i needed to it would be nice if i didn't have to worry about its use for(ME TO STAY ALIVE). Thank you...D.D.Huffman

Fri, 09/17/2010 - 7:25am Permalink
MikeAlike (rec… (not verified)

Am not a drug user any more but can tell you the secrecy and criminality leads 2 problems unseen, I had a fortune of attending symposium in New York City hosted by the Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts & LMCC lectured by John Donohue III, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law, Yale Law School, whom works on drug reform- if you have minute 2 research his (John Donohue the third) studies & lectures u will understand y drug prosecution & prison is not a solution. In fact other countries have turned their cultures around by allowing drug use and taxing/controlling it.

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 2:10pm Permalink

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