Arresting Tales

Marijuana--time to legalize it

Floyd.jpg

*Note: Floyd, pictured above, is only slightly representative of your average California pot smoker.


Voters in California will have the opportunity in November to vote on a ballot referendum to legalize marijuana.  The measure is known as Proposition 19, the "Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010."

I've had some fun in this blog making fun of potheads and their antics.  I coined the phrase "pothead clown car" and I've talked about home-based dope dealers smoking themselves retarded.  That being said, I think it's about time that this nation takes a serious look at legalizing marijuana.  I'm not the only cop who thinks so, either.



Joseph D. McNamara, retired Chief of San Jose PD and a 35-year veteran cop, recently wrote an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle in which he argues in favor of Proposition 19.  McNamara can hardly be described as your typical liberal advocate of drug legalization; in addition to being a former cop he's a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.  He writes:

Like an increasing number of law enforcers, I have learned that most bad things about marijuana -- especially the violence made inevitable by an obscenely profitable black market -- are caused by the prohibition, not by the plant. Legal marijuana is long overdue, but leading up to November, wrongheaded opponents will implore Californians with the same old mistaken arguments to stay the course. Prohibition advocates will promote fear, and they will ignore the vast bulk of law enforcement and medical experience on marijuana.

McNamara goes on to take apart several arguments against legalization: that more people will drive stoned and go to work high, that legalization will lead to an explosion in use by young people, and that drug gangs will continue selling after legalization.  He's especially persuasive on that last point:

Who would buy pot on dangerous streets if they could get it at regulated stores without unsafe impurities? Al Capone and his rivals made machine-gun battles a staple of 1920s city street life when they fought to control the illegal alcohol market. No one today shoots up the local neighborhood to compete in the beer market. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Mexican cartels derive more than 60 percent of their profits from marijuana. How much did the cartels make last year dealing in Budweiser, Corona or Dos Equis? Legalization would seriously cripple their operations.

McNamara is not alone.  An organization called LEAP--Law Enforcement Against Prohibition--recently held a press conference at which several retired cops, judges and prosecutors spoke in favor of legalization.  Notice that I said "retired"--advocating legalization remains a toxic subject for politicians and a potential career-ender for law enforcement types.  Mainstream police organizations like the California Police Chiefs Association oppose legalization, as do almost all politicians currently running for statewide office in California.

Getting back to prohibition.  It's worth noting that some of the funding for anti-Proposition 19 campaigning comes from The California Beer & Beverage Distributors.  According to this article:

Alcohol causes an estimated $38 billion in costs in California each year from emergency room visits, arrests, etc, according to the Marin Institute. There are roughly 3,500 deaths annually from alcohol-related illness and more than 109,000 alcohol-related injuries in California. Conversely, pot caused 181 emergency room visits in 2008, according to a study by the non-partisan RAND Corporation, despite being used by more than four million Californians monthly.

Like I always say, I've never gotten in a fight with an enraged pothead, but I've dealt with plenty of combative drunks.

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17 Comments

tmSparty said:

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I'm with you Joe, the resources put into combating, prosecuting and punishing the use of marijuana could be better served elsewhere. Having spent some of the summer in Amsterdam, where pot is decriminalized, I was struck by the money these Dutch "coffee-shops" had to be making through the sale of pot, and talk about a mellow laid-back community. Far out man!

Joe the Cop said:

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The financial benefit occurs in two ways:

1) the savings from not investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating and supervising marijuana users,

2) the tax revenue generated by marijuana sale and consumption. I find it absurd that a moral argument could be made against marijuana legalization when the state is already profiting handsomely from alcohol, tobacco and gambling revenues.

Not only that, think of the job creation. An entire industry of growers, shippers, processors, and retailers all operating above board.

Interesting that you mention the Netherlands--marijuana use in the US is roughly twice what it is in the Netherlands, even though it's illegal here.

Skylers Dad said:

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I think you make a lot of great points Joe. Why not get some money out of the deal? My favorite pot story is the Canadian snowboarder who got busted years ago, and they tried to say it was performance enhancing...

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Well said. So, it's a happy, non-violent high then, huh? I wonder if any grumpy drinkers would switch over if it were legalized. Interesting about the Netherlands. Don't they also say Europe has fewer alcoholics and troubles with underage drinkers because there is not drinking age? Funny how rebel teens and young adults are attracted to things because they're restricted.

irishpirate said:

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http://www.copinthehood.com/

The book by the same name summarizes the reasons for ending the drug war very well.

Considering Mexico is on the verge of a civil war, with tens of thousands of deaths yearly to feed our drug habit, it might be time to consider a different tactic.

Legalize it, tax it, and treat it like a public health problem. By the way the tax revenue from weed sales would not be as much as some people presume. Legalization will drop the price.

There was a huge pot bust in the NW suburbs a few months ago. I seem to recall Sheriff Dart in front of a camera. What he should have done is taken the pot to the county jail and distributed it to the inmates. Probably make being a jail guard one hell of a lot safer.

We have this weirdly puritanical streak in American culture. It exists in both the right wing moralists and the left wing busybodies. Which reminds me of something I wrote years ago in a different forum:

"Lord,

Save us from the left wing know what is best busybodies.

Save us from the right wing imperial moralists.

Save us from those who would save us.

Save our cities from those who claim to love them.

AMEN

The rant is ended go in peace. Thanks be to Pirate."


It's time for America to grow up. I have my doubts. We now have a Republican candidate for Senator in Delaware who seems to view preventing masturbation as a legitimate area of government involvement. Maybe if we gave teenage boys so much weed they would be too high to go all Onan the Barbarian on themselves.

PabloKoh said:

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If you want medical marijuana in Illinois we all need to call our Illinois State Representative and ask them to vote for and or sign on as a cosponsor to SB 1381. Please do it now, It only takes a minute. Find your State Rep at this link.
http://www.elections.illinois.gov/DistrictLocator/DistrictOfficialSearchByAddress.aspx

JayelleFarmer said:

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Go Chicago Go!

END PROHIBITION NOW

BillPerspective said:

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Leave a comment...

BillPerspective said:

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Found your interview on radio interesting. Rather than promote "Marijuana legalization", perhaps a better way of expressing it is "Marijuana Regulation". A great book that discusses what you are talking about is: "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs". Written by Judge James P. Gray and published in 2001, I think it is extremely relevant to today's conversation!

sclaw said:

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Don't believe the hype that marijuana is safe. Marijuana use results in dependency on marijuana for many people evident by the number of people using marijuana today. MARIJUANA will CONTROL you and your life, and you cannot do anything about it but push other people to use it with you.
Face it, MARIJUANA is controlling people's lives today that's why there are various propositions on legalizing marijuana.
Admit it, you as a pot user, need to have marijuana because you are dependent on it. Your entire life is a lie and you are spreading this lie to others.

Joe the Cop said:

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sclaw, thanks for commenting. My first response was to tell you to go f*ck yourself, but I realized this is something of a teachable moment.

Your comment is a perfect example of the ad hominem attacks that so many prohibition supporters engage in. I'm surprised you didn't type it in ALL CAPS TO MAKE YOUR POINT. I am most definitely NOT a marijuana user. My drug of choice happens to be bourbon.

You are correct that, in some people, marijuana creates dependency--but that is psychological dependency, not physical addiction. There's no doubt that daily marijuana use is not good for people, any more than daily drunkenness or a pack-a-day cigarette habit would be. The fact is, though, that the choice of whether to engage in these types of "harmful" behaviors should be left to the individual, not the state, and they certainly shouldn't be the focus of criminal enforcement. I'll quote from Richard Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. They recommended decriminalization and regulation of marijuana all the way back in 1972:

"...criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only 'with the greatest reluctance."

irishpirate said:

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SCLAW,

man chill out. Have a drink. Take a toke or sumtin.

Like Joe my drug of choice is not marijuana. It's caffeine, followed by alcohol. I've never smoked any weed. Never really had the desire too; although, if I ever get cancer or some other disease whose symptoms it could ameliorate I might take it up.

What's the percentage of people between the age of say 22 and 65 who have used weed? Over 50 percent I imagine.

What percentage of those "abusers" are currently addicted to the MARIJUANA and CONTROLed by it?

Not many.

Perhaps you should move to Delaware to work on the O'Donnell for Senate campaign.

Face it, MASTURBATION is controlling people's lives today that's why there are various propositions on criminalizing masturbation.

Freedom is the idea that people get to do things and make choices that you don't agree with. As long as those choices don't directly affect others then it's none of your friggin business.

irishpirate said:

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IrishPirate,

I would like to complement you on your amusing and well written thoughts.

By the way "SCLAW" seems to post about weed all over the internet.

http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=en&q=%22sclaw%22+marijuana&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=d8e1fc1b19040f26

I wonder if he is paid by the liquor industry?

xoxoxoxoxox

Yourself

Alex Quigley said:

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Weird. I replaced the word "marijuana" in your comment with the word "alcohol" and it actually makes even more sense my way.

Wendy C said:

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Great post, Joe! Also, think of the money and grief saved for people with medical conditions that can be eased by marijuana.

lw62005 said:

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Now here is one thing me and "Joe The PoPo" can agree on. You should try smoking sometime if it is legalized Joe, maybe it will open your mind up a bit, of course only when you are off-duty;)

grow9000 said:

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With the Illinois elections just around the corner, here's a voting guide for medical marijuana friendly candidates:
http://grow9000.com/Illinois-Medical-Marijuana-Voting-Guide-grow9000.pdf

Make your vote count!

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