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Why Are Some Cops So Hostile To Marijuana Policy Reform?

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Rob Kampia

Executive director, Marijuana Policy Project

Posted: January 18, 2011 01:29 PM


A few years ago, when the Marijuana Policy Project was lobbying the Minnesota legislature to pass a modest medical marijuana bill, the state prosecutors association led the opposition. Rank-and-file police from the Twin Cities left their beats to fill up committee hearing rooms -- in uniform, with handguns strapped to their waists -- in an attempt to intimidate the state legislators on the committees.


And law enforcement lied, lied, lied, so much so that we started distributing daily "

" videos to all state legislators and political reporters in the state. We also slammed the leading local prosecutor's office with phone calls from angry constituents; he privately threatened to arrest us for "obstructing justice." I almost wish he had arrested us so that he would have had to explain why trying to help sick people interferes with justice, but he didn't.


For a couple years, it was all-out warfare, but we finally passed a medical marijuana bill through the legislature in May 2009, only to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty ® veto the bill, saying he preferred to "stand with law enforcement."


State prosecutors, police, sheriffs, and attorneys general -- not to mention federal DEA and FBI agents -- are almost universally opposed to marijuana policy reform measures in every state, to the point where they actually spend time and taxpayer money campaigning and lobbying against us. Why?


1. IGNORANCE: For the most part, rank-and-file cops aren't trained scientists or policy experts. They don't spend much time reading medical studies or public policy analyses, and they generally don't have much knowledge about the issue beyond how it directly affects their jobs. When presented with such information, they tend to listen to the people they encounter most in their work. Unfortunately, those people are almost always government officials or those with a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal, such as drug treatment specialists. Since this information comes from "trusted sources,' it's usually accepted as fact, and differing viewpoints are therefore ignored.


2. JOB SECURITY: Before MPP helped decriminalize marijuana possession in Massachusetts in November 2008, we learned that marijuana-possession arrests accounted for 6% of all arrests in that state each year. So, to some extent, law enforcement was opposing our ballot initiative because they were concerned that some of them might need to be laid off if there were fewer "criminals" to arrest and prosecute. As for me, I never thought that 6% of law enforcement would be laid off; more likely, we were freeing up law enforcement to go after real criminals. Which leads me to...

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: According to the FBI, 48 law-enforcement officers nationwide were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2009, and none of these were killed by enforcing drug laws. It makes sense that going after murderers would be more dangerous than sniffing under college students' doors. But policing exists to make society safer, and hunting down nonviolent marijuana users at the expense of thousands of unsolved assaults, rapes, and murders does nothing to accomplish this.


4. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: It's hard for any person to change his or her political opinion after years of believing that opinion. So you can imagine how it would be even harder to change your opinion on an issue after you've ruined the lives of hundreds or thousands of people by arresting them on that issue. In other words, once a cop arrests marijuana users, testifies against them in court, and moves up the political food chain because of all this, it's almost impossible for that cop to then declare, "I was wrong."


Thankfully, there's an organization of principled law enforcement professionals who are neither ignorant, self-serving, nor mentally calcified. I'm talking about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization that deserves your wholehearted support.


And there is another ray of hope: When I talk to cops on the beat in the District of Columbia, where I live, I ask them, "What's the worst crime you usually have to deal with?" They almost always answer, "Domestic violence." I ask, "Is marijuana involved in that?" They laugh and say, "Never. It's almost always alcohol." So should marijuana be decriminalized, or maybe even legalized? "Probably, but the higher-ups would never go for that," they say.


So there you have it: There are plenty of police officers who see the futility and unfairness of marijuana prohibition up close, but most law enforcement officials with real authority support marijuana prohibition. Why the discrepancy?


The most obvious explanation is that the higher-ups are (1) more likely to be appointed or hired by mayors and city councils, and (2) responsible for presenting departmental budgets to those politicians every year. So perhaps there's a fifth reason why so many law enforcement officials are hostile...


5. FEAR OF OUT-OF-TOUCH POLITICIANS: Politicians are far behind the public when it comes to understanding the harms of marijuana prohibition. Whether politicians are afraid of being perceived as "soft on crime," of sticking their necks out on what is still a fairly contentious issue, or of offending particular special interest groups, opposition remains high among elected representatives. Law enforcement officials looking for bigger budgets and better jobs will echo these politicians ad nauseum, providing them with political cover and legitimacy. And there we have a self-perpetuating cycle.


This is why it's important to engage law enforcement on this issue at every opportunity. Whether it is the cop on your corner or the chief of police, opening the dialogue is vitally important.



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It is a good post! and I like what your saying!


There have been lots of lil cases such as simple possesions for pt's I have been thru 3 of em, each one had special circumstance (i got a possesion charge yrs ago, 1/4 zip nothing big just simple possesion!) so I guess if you been hit before they make your simple possession charge a felony (2 or 5 yr) Im not looking at the court documents i have again! lol but i did get them all dropped, and got thru it, Im thinkin that every one after me in that county for a simple possesion got off also, as long as they were in their legal limits, I was way under my limit, all 3 times, I only carry what i use for the day if im out and about! (in trunk of course :rolleyes: )


Peace! Keep up the Good Fight!



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$$$$$$ this is all about $$$$$$$...we've allowed our police departments, and the various interjurisdictional drug groups to profit from our misfortunes for far too long. They fear that if we are no longer considered a criminal element that they will lose all of those funds that come from forfiture. Forfiture laws were first put together to stop pirates back in the 1800's. Then, when the drug war first began they beefed them up to deal with gangs. Now they have wormed their way up to where you can have monies and property taken from you and you not even be charged with a crime. Hell, if you study the forfiture history you'll see where driving across the country with cash can cost you big time, even if you are a legitimate business person, or someone who doesn't like banks. We are losing site of a lot of the ideals of the originators of our freedoms, are they trying to force us into another American Revolution? It sure seems that way...j.b.

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JB it is all about $$$$$. $$$$$ are the ammunition of the enemy for fighting this war. So the answer is? National organizations like the MPP have lead the way and we all, every on of us, owe them membership, and if possible financial support, but membership numbers matter. I have found but two opportunities in Michigan worthy of my investment and stake in medical cannabis. Neither will change the world but are doing the right things for what I believe are the right reasons. I will continue my support on the national and local level LEAP, MPP, NORML, MINORML, ACLU of Michigan, and one long term commitment in Michigan for MM. After that I'm tapped out for state level contributions. We are a splintered movement without direction and until that changes..................

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Police are told again and again in their training that marijuana is evil and destroyes lives. Their superiors tell them this so they do not question it. They are brainwashed and lied to repeatiedly. It is confusing for them to now hear that it is ok for medical use. It is probably frustrating to be told one thing for so long and now are told to act differently. Their job is already stressful and now they are being told to ignore what they were taught in certain situations and then to remember it in others. Things are either ok or not ok to do. To have both extremes is confusing. I think leo would have an easier time with just legalization.

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The players are criminals. Think back to the War on Drugs, which was part of Nixon's agenda. There is no better example of criminality than he. It was during this time, 1971-'75 that the CIA was using military transport planes to bring the stuff into the country. The hooey continued under Reagan, along with Oliver North, John Poindexter, and others who were in up to their eyeballs using drug money to support illegal covert ops. Our local boyzngrrlz in blue (or black, or in camo), make a great living taking drug crime evidence and failing to report it. Prosecutor's offices and police departments rely on the forefiture laws to fund their fun and games.


These people are not deluded. They know exactly what they are doing.

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A big chunk of law enforcement budget comes from forfeitures of cash and property take away all the cannabis forfeiture money thats well over 70% of lost revenue to law enforcement since once your legal they can no longer find stems and seeds in your home along with common household supplies like sandwich baggies and put them all together charge you with delivery manufacturing and take everything you earned for the last 30 years .



Look no further than what i laid out above for your answer.

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