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If “cops don’t make laws, they just enforce them”, why are police opposing marijuana legalization?

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator February 12, 2010
    Medical Marijuana States as of 2010

    New Jersey has become the 14th medical marijuana state

    Since fourteen states have legalized the use of cannabis for sick and disabled people we here at NORML have reported on numerous stories of medical users harassed, arrested, and jailed by police. We have also reported on healthy adults in all fifty states whose lives are turned upside down by an arrest, sometimes losing student loans, jobs, children, pets, dignity, property, and freedom over a single joint, seed, or even a cannabis stem. When we and others bring up these insane injustices to the police who are making these arrests, we often hear the platitude that “cops don’t make the laws, we just enforce the laws.”

    So why do we consistently see representatives of law enforcement opposing medical marijuana, marijuana decriminalization, and marijuana legalization efforts in state legislatures?

    In California, the California Narcotics Officers Association schools police officers to believe the public “have been misled… into believing there is merit to their argument that smoking marijuana is a safe and effective medicine.” This is in direct contradiction of the stated position of the American Medical Association otherwise that “short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”

    In New Jersey, the medical marijuana law was severely curtailed when the Assembly heard the unfounded assertion by a representative of New Jersey’s Fraternal Order of Police that “I’ve heard in California there’s a lot peripheral crime around these centers [medical marijuana dispensaries], I get that from the different law enforcement agencies around the country who I have regular contact with.” This is in direct contradiction of the findings of the Chief of the LAPD who stated: “Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries.” The Chief was responding to the notion that there is greater crime around dispensaries and said “I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra. It doesn’t really bear out.”

    And in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs Control publishes a “fact sheet” on marijuana that states: “Today’s new cultivation methods are producing a drug with up to 30 percent THC, or 3,000 percent higher than the old 1960’s-1980’s available marijuana.” This is in direct contradiction to the DEA’s own figures on marijuana potency which find that today’s average cannabis seizure may have doubled in THC potency (a 100% increase, not a 3,000% increase.) Oklahoma’s bureau doesn’t address why 30% THC marijuana is to be feared, but 100% THC Marinol pills are FDA-approved.

    ABC News / Washington Post Poll

    ABC News / Washington Post Poll on public medical marijuana support

    The attitudes of most in law enforcement are also contrary to the attitudes of the public. A recent ABC News / Washington Post poll found that support for medical marijuana is now at 81% nationwide, with a majority overall (62% nationwide) who support a system at least as open as Oregon’s OMMA where not-necessarily terminal patients can only qualify if they suffer a specific condition from a list and a majority of those who support medical marijuana (56% of the 81% who support it) supporting an open system like California’s Prop-215 where “doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana to anyone they think it can help”.

    Police medical marijuana poll

    POLICE Magazine survey on police medical marijuana support

    But according to a June 2009 survey in POLICE Magazine, even though a majority (54.6%) of police say they support medical marijuana, almost all of those who support it (88%) say it must be only under stricter regulation than we have currently in the medical marijuana states.

    Marijuana Legalization Polls

    Support in 2009 for marijuana legalization ranged from 38%-53%, depending on the poll.

    When asked about marijuana legalization overall, even for healthy adults, the American Public are also contrary to the opinions of law enforcement. The latest Angus Reid poll is the first to show majority American support for legalization (53%), while the latest Gallup poll puts support at 44%, its best mark in forty years of polling.

    Police say don't legalize

    POLICE Magazine survey of police opinions on legalization

    But according to the same POLICE survey, marijuana legalization has less than half the support among cops than among the public they protect and serve. Only 23% of police supported re-legalization of cannabis.

    When asked why, specifically, those police who opposed re-legalization felt that way, eight in ten said that marijuana is a “gateway drug”, there was the danger of “people driving high”, and seven in ten cited the “harm to user and society”. Longtime NORML readers know that the gateway drug theory has been debunked by the Institutes of Medicine in 1999 and every reputable study over the past ten years. While everybody, especially NORML, discourages driving under the influence of cannabis, we understand that there are people behaving irresponsibly now and re-legalization would not encourage less responsibility, but more. Under re-legalization, money raised from taxes could sponsor anti-stoned-driving campaigns like the ones that have successfully reduced drunk driving.

    Marijuana is Safer

    Majority of Americans believe Marijuana is Safer

    As for the “harm to user and society”, POLICE readers still felt by a margin of 3-2 that alcohol was “more of a threat to the community” than marijuana. (The survey does not record the support among police for reinstating alcohol prohibition to prevent alcohol’s “harm to user and society”, however.) This 39% of police who believe marijuana is safer than alcohol comes closest to matching public opinion, which shows now a slim majority (51%) believe marijuana is safer than alcohol.

    Decrim Poll

    If marijuana users are to be punished, 3 in 4 support no more than a civil fine

    While the general public is barely approaching majority support for outright marijuana legalization, the public has long held the belief that any punishment for adult marijuana possession should be a fine only. Three out of four Americans (76%) believe that if marijuana users are to be punished, they should only be fined and not arrested and sent to jail. Yet the POLICE Magazine survey finds that two out of three cops (65%) think it is “worth law enforcement’s time to bust marijuana users”.

    Another area where police opinions differ from the public is on the issue of the murderous Mexican drug gangs that have assassinated, kidnapped, murdered, tortured, and beheaded over 15,000 Mexicans in just two years. The Arizona Attorney General has cited that “marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money that Mexican cartels use for other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the Mexican army and police.” But in the POLICE Magazine survey, two-thirds of cops (68%) believe marijuana legalization would have no “favorable impact on problems associated with gangs and cartels.”

    So do the police know something about the dangers of cannabis use that the American Medical Association, the American people, and the Arizona Attorney General do not? A cynic might think that police are merely acting in their own best interest, protecting their source of easy statistic-padding arrests and asset forfeiture bounty, but I’m more inclined to believe many of these front-line soldiers in the War on Marijuana are acting in good faith based on terrible misinformation about cannabis.

    114 Responses to “If “cops don’t make laws, they just enforce them”, why are police opposing marijuana legalization?”

    1. Jeedi says:

      When is the public going to get it? Law enforcement is making a living off the suffering of peaceful citizens. This is SLAVERY pure and simple!!!!!!!! People are deriving a paycheck by capturing people and making them forfeit their property and rights. Stop this madness!!!!

      This abuse by law enforcement should be NORML’s primary focus in this drug war. This needs to be the STORY!!! Not that pot is safer or whatever. This story needs to be slammed down the throats of the mainstream press until they realize what is going on….

      [Editor’s note: Reform groups, in the case of organizations like NORML, ACLU, NAACP, etc…have been aptly demonstrating the self-interests of law enforcement’s advocacy for the status quo in cannabis prohibition for nearly 40 years.

      The problem resides with the so-called mainstream media that does not report on law enforcement’s perpetuation of prohibition laws, and in turn an uninformed general public does not put sufficient pressure on their elected policy makers to reign in police.]

    2. Matt says:

      Why? I will tell you why: Money. They would lose their jobs if there was nothing to enforce.

      They do pull out that same sad story “oh I’ve seen it destroy families” or “Oh I don’t want to send our children the wrong message”

      What EXACTLY is the “wrong message”? The wrong message is just saying smoking marijuana is okay? How about that persecution is bad? How about that reasonable adults talk about their differences and work out a compromise? No? Just that marijuana is bad…

      If you didn’t know, there is also a study saying that the IQ of the average Law Enforcement Officer is under 100 (90 I believe was the score). Yet these are the people we trust with our lives… think about that.

      90 is NOT FAR ABOVE MENTALLY DISABLED and yet it’s the average police IQ.

    3. texanconnissuer says:

      Money, Money, Money. When the police bust a semitruck with a load of weed, everybody makes MONEY. The state confiscates the truck and sells it for some MONEY. The state charges the taxpayers around $50 dollars a day to house the truck driver/smuggler in prison therefore making MONEY. The local attorney plea bargains with the DA for a shorter sentence thus providing a service to the community and they both make some MONEY. If some crooked officials get involved they pocket some drug MONEY.

    4. wash-voter says:

      That’s the problem with living with lies for so long they are percieved as truth. The longer you live them the harder they are to let go.
      Get us all back on the same team. Stop alienating the public by perpetuating these lies. Stop hiding the truth from the public on issues like how digging up worthless “ditch weed” magically becomes x number of dangerous plants that are worth (by over inflated theoretical street values, as if they were actual pot plants, as if they were fully mature instead of all the inch tall plants you are counting, when we know the truth is that you couldn’t give it away on the street) millions in grants to keep your job secure. All this does is drive us further apart.

    5. Pat says:

      Yeah I agree with pretty much all that was said so far. The only officers with the opposite opinion are the ones that are thinking with their heads and not their wallets. Its very discouraging that people just continue these lies keeping the calm, non aggressive pot smokers from just enjoying life the way the good lord intended. I’m very close to just giving up on my state (PA) and moving to Cali where i can live my life without fear of prosecution. I live in constant fear that at some point I’m gonna be caught with a quarter and end up going to jail for something so harmless. It’s like being arrested for hitting someone with a foam stick. It’s just ridiculous. No Harm No Foul!

    6. CP says:

      I think at the very core of this “war on drugs” with marijuana being (no longer a pipedream) legalized nationwide, the cartels and police could do more, involving other serious crimes rather than pick on the marijuana user/grower. Go after the meth dealers, the gangbangers, illegal immigrants, the cartels, and crooked politicians. As for one comment I just read: I think marijuana shouldn’t be used while driving, but to each their own. I’d much rather people use marijuana than pharmaceutical drugs. Sure the gov’t will tax it, but so what. Black market would only exist for hashish and high quality buds, but think about it…hopefully less people would drink, beat their wives, beat their kids(not the same as smacking a kid), I see the legalization of marijuana to be a cash cow for our gov’t.

    7. CP says:

      I also think if legalization occurs nationwide the drug companies will have a decrease in profits, people will be healthier, the police will get a budget cut, yes loss of jobs, but concentrate on other serious crimes, release non-violent drug offenders from jails and prisons because putting a good man with hardened criminals is not justice, it is torture.

    8. bwah says:

      Because cops won’t get their weed for free anymore?

    9. claygooding says:

      As long as police departments are receiving drug enforcement funds from the DEA,they are going to lie and support the prohibition of marijuana. Never mind that they are supporting the killings in Mexico and doing the public relations work of the cartels.
      As much as we would like to free the police up from marijuana as a crime,they realize full well that arresting marijuana users is a lot safer than arresting drunks.

    10. at 42 and an avid cannabis consumer, whom has bought, sold, traded this commodity for the past 29 years and have never been harassed, are arrested for it, knock on wood. Ten years ago, only after my divorce I decided to cold turkey quit smoking cannabis and I did for almost two year, Then I moved to California from New Orleans for work… only to find myself become a drunken mess, yes growing up in New Orleans and was never much of a drinker. Then I started to understand the importance of cannabis use, when I was twenty one I blew my back out and have lived in pain ever since, besides vicodin, cannabis is the only thing that TRULY relieves the pain and discomfort.

      Now I’m proud to say that I’m once again a daily prescriber of cannabis a very happy, productive white collar republican who is starting a business to become the countries fastest growing distributor of cannabis and cannabis confections.

      and no I not going to spam you with my companies name. not yet anyway…lol

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