By Joe the Cop
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.