Legalizing Marijuana: Police Officers Speak Out (A response)
Doug Wylie posted up an article Friday over at PoliceOne.com about the marijuana legalization debate and what cops have to say about the issue. What’s most surprising is the poll results he posted about stating that 44% of cops on the site are in favor of legalization or on the fence, which is up from a 2009 poll they conducted that only recieved 36% in favor or on the fence.
It’s best to start with the reason marijuana is illegal in the first place, a history that has much to do with racism, control, and protectionism. For most of human history marijuana has been legal, and it’s use dates back to 7,000 BC. It had many uses, it was used for food, clothes, rope, paper and many other things. As a matter of fact, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. The first marijuana law in America was enacted in Jamestown Colony in 1619 ordering farmers to grow Indian hemp and you could actually be jailed for NOT growing hemp during shortages, it was even legal to pay your taxes with hemp at this time. The 1850 Census counted over 8,000 hemp farms in the US.
But then came the racism factor. In 1910 the Mexican revolution spread across the border and there started a rash of bad feelings between the smaller hemp farms and the larger ones who were using cheap Mexican labor. The Great Depression followed and when jobs became scarce, California passed a law outlawing “preparations of hemp” or “loco weed” as many Mexicans smoked marijuana.
Utah followed by outlawing marijuana after Mormons who traveled to Mexico were bringing the weed back to the state and smoking it. Targeting Mexican-Americans, 8 other states passed laws outlawing marijuana between 1915 and 1927. One Montana legislator, after the state outlawed marijuana in 1927, was quoted as saying,
When some beet field peon takes a few traces of this stuff… he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies.
A Texas legislator was quoted as saying,
All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy.
In the East, it was all about stopping the “Negroes” from smoking it, as it was part of the Jazz scene sweeping the Eastern United States. Said most newspapers in 1934
Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.
Alcohol prohibition was written into the Constitution because the view at the time was that the Feds did not have the power to outlaw alcohol and drugs (alcohol is a drug, so that’s like repeating yourself) therefore Congress passed the Harrison Act in 1914 to tax cocaine and opiates. If you did not follow the law you found yourself in a lot of trouble with the Treasury Department. Therefore, in 1930, the Treasury Department created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, thus starting the all out war on marijuana. The following quotes are attributed to the founding Director Henry Anslinger
There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
Anslinger then introduced the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, complete with racist remarks and stories of ax murderers who were high on the drug. The legislation passed and the rest is history as they say.
Going back to the article in question, the debate was brought up after a Border Patrol agent was fired for telling a coworker during idle chat that cross border violence would cease if the drug war was ended. A belief that isn’t really that uncommon amongst police officers. I know more than one police officer here in my small town that really has no problem with marijuana smokers. I’ve witnessed in person, a cop walk in on people smoking pot and done nothing about it, not even give them a warning.
But can a police officer actually be fired for voicing this opinion? It happens, as the New York Times has reported. Those cops in the story that were fired for their pro-legalization are now likely to win big settlements from their departments.
This revelation may upset some pro-drug war cops, like the ones cited in the PoliceOne article. It shows that alot of cops are actually against the drug war, and the poll numbers found by PoliceOne.com probably would be closer to 50/50 if more cops were not afraid of speaking out. But now that they are seeing they can speak out and win money because of it, you may see this more and more. I’d love to see the poll results in a couple years.
What these anti-legalization cops do not understand, is that their belief kills innocent, peaceful people. Domestic drug law enforcement has killed 48 people in 2011 (as of December 9), the latest being 24 year old Samyr Ceballos of Santa Monica, California. After being investigated by the police, he was followed home and tazed after refusing to get out of his SUV. Cops then claim he reached for his gun and was then shot and killed. Police are refusing to release the names of the officers after threats from a local gang.
Which brings me to my next point, gangs are what they are because of prohibition. Al Capone would have been a nobody had alcohol never been outlawed, and big time notorious gangsters these days would be nobodys if not for drugs being outlawed. When you outlaw something like drugs and weapons, it just goes underground, where lots of shady and dangerous people make a profit off of it. They will do whatever it takes to transport these things to the people that want them because the demand is still there. The more police crack down on drugs, the more dangerous the work becomes for the gangs to get their products to their clients, therefore the price of those illegal products rises.
And to be able to move the products, they have to buy off police officers, which is where corruption comes from. Border Agents, sheriff deputies and local cops everywhere are being bought off by drug cartels in order to look the other way when shipments come in to their jurisdiction. And can you really blame them? These people have families to feed and take care of and who can’t resist a little extra cash? Men are easily corruptible, a lesson I reinforce to my daughter everyday, it’s the danger of having too much power.
The Drug War is also costing alot of money to enforce, it pads the budgets of police departments, which is why a lot of cops are in favor of it. It allows them to get more money from the federal government, which they use to buy more guns and, nowadays, tanks. But police departments aren’t immune from this recession, as departments nationwide have been laying off officers to save money across the board. But Philadelphia found a way to fight back against this, they essentially decriminalized small amounts of marijuana posession and actually saved $2 million.
1. The state forbids something, like drugs.
2. Production MUST therefore be illegal, and production will occur because the demand doesn’t disappear when the drug is made illegal.
3. Going illegal is a necessary condition for all those who are willing to produce and supply the drug. The profit motive remains, even heightens, and so there will always be people who will go illegal.
4. The people attracted into the illegal business are going to be the people who already have the least inhibitions about doing anything immoral and illegal. They are the ones most willing to take risks.
5. Competition is all within illegality. This means that moral rules that govern peaceful competition do not prevail among the suppliers. They therefore select among any actions and rules that bring them survival, profits, and growth. The most effective means of gaining market share and preventing the incursion of rivals within a situation of illegal rivalry will include a reputation and readiness to kill and maim so as to enforce one’s will.
6. The means include corrupting law enforcement. This is virtually a necessity and always occurs in these conditions. The results include gang warfare. It also includes uneasy peace among gangs and division into territories and fiefdoms.
7. The competition need not lead to the practices mentioned in this article whose aim is to find and groom the most merciless killers. Yet it probably happened in the 1920s gangs that this mode of competition also prevailed as the many stories of Capone suggest. Most gangster movies also depict that the more brutal gangsters rise to the top.
One thing the government is either ignorant about, or just ignores, is that they can’t even keep drugs out of their own prisons, so how they can they keep them out of the entire country? Marijuana, as is the case with most every outlawed drug, has many health benefits. One of the most recent findings is that it may make you a better driver.
An amazing study authored by professors D. Mark Anderson (University of Montana) and Daniel Rees (University of Colorado) shows that traffic deaths have been reduced in states where medical marijuana is legalized.According to their findings, the use of medical marijuana has caused traffic related fatalities to fall by nearly nine percent in states that have legalized medical marijuana (via The Truth About Cars).
And one idea I know officers can get behind is saving lives of cops. How many cops have died prosecuting the drug war?(Don’t believe the medias numbers on this) Being a cop isn’t even one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs, but how much safer would it be if they didn’t have to deal with the dangerous people that get involved with distributing illegal products who are just as armed as the cops?
And finally, the most obvious point, who owns your body? Does a group of strangers have the right to punish you for putting something in your own body? Do you own your body or does the government? The government thinks they do, but just try and tell them otherwise. You, and only you, have the right to make the final decision on what goes into your body, nobody can legally force you otherwise.
And I leave you with one final point, made by one of my favorite bands, 311, in their anti-drug war song “Offbeat Bareass”
the war on drugs may be well intentioned
but it falls f—ing flat when you stop and mention
the over crowded prisons where a rapists gets paroled
to make room for a dude who has sold
a pound of weed to me that’s a crime
here’s to good people doin time y’all