Over the past several years, many states have campaigned to have cannabis legalized. In some states, this legalization has passed without issue. In other states, however, many voters are still fighting the change. Even many police offers are in favor of cannabis legalization. These five reasons police want cannabis legalized may help shape your opinion.
1. The Black Market is Dangerous
Cannabis itself doesn’t have nearly as many dangerous effects as many of the drugs currently available in the black market. When it’s purchased through legitimate sources, cannabis offers a safe experience that will keep its users from experiencing most of the worst side effects of traditional drugs. On the black market, however, cannabis can be mixed with a variety of other drugs–many of which aren’t disclosed to buyers before they use it.
2. The “War on Pot” Isn’t Helping the Public
Police officers have plenty of dangerous crimes to deal with on a daily basis. They deal with dangerous individuals every day–and cannabis users simply aren’t. Instead of devoting that time and money to removing cannabis from the streets, police offers prefer to focus their efforts on genuine crimes that have the potential to significantly impact other people. When their efforts are focused on catching people with a low-impact drug, officers aren’t able to spend the effort they need to on bigger crimes.
3. Communities Want Legalization
Many officers are devoted to their communities and the people who live in them. They want to have great relationships with the populations they serve. Going after individuals who choose to use marijuana, however, destroys those relationships and leads to a lack of trust. Every time an officer arrests someone for cannabis possession, they’re creating a negative interaction that has the potential to destroy their relationship with other members of that community. Not only that, officers who are clearly in favor of legalization of cannabis will be able to boost their relationships with those members of their communities.
4. Police Practices Deteriorate with Marijuana Arrests
In many cases, arrests for possession of cannabis, turning in drugs to the office, and other practices associated with marijuana arrests lead to illegal or unethical police practices. Many departments have discovered that the best way to increase marijuana arrests is to offer incentives. Unfortunately, those incentives also encourage officers to engage in unethical or illegal practices like informants who admit to lying, bringing in SWAT teams to take care of marijuana arrests, and even illegal searches. Many departments are pressured to make drug arrests, reducing the numbers of dealers and users on the streets–and as a result, officers find themselves going to extreme lengths to capture individuals who would not be engaging in illegal behavior, were cannabis legalized.
5. Cops Want Kids to Be Safe
Cracking down on marijuana use, unfortunately, has little impact on whether or not people are going to use marijuana. Legalizing it, however, would create better controls over who was able to purchase marijuana–not to mention instituting quality control that would prevent kids from getting their hands on marijuana laced with other materials. By legalizing cannabis, most states will add age restrictions that will make it increasingly difficult for kids to get their hands on it–and in the process, keep them safer.
Cannabis use has been hotly debated across many states over the past several years. Some states have chosen to legalize; others are still pushing against it. Many police officers, however, are falling down heavily on the side of legalization–and with good reason. In states where cannabis use has been legalized, police departments are able to use their resources for crimes that really matter. Not only that, legalization initiates higher levels of control over cannabis and keeps tainted marijuana from making its way onto the street–a vital step in keeping high school students safer.
Cannabis is a Schedule I drug under federal law, meaning it is not believed to have any proven medical benefits, and a high risk of addiction. It’s counterparts within the schedule include drugs such as Heroin and LSD. Despite the federal standpoint, over half of the states have legalized its use for medical or recreational use. Statistics show that the majority of people are, for the most part, in favor of cannabis legalization. What may be surprising though, is what a Pew Research Center survey reveals; that most cops would prefer relaxed marijuana laws as well. The reasons for their attitudes towards the plant are varied, from a failed War on Drugs to a perception that cannabis is safer than many other substances, and even the age of the respondents.
The Survey Findings
Between May 19 and August 14, 2016, Pew Research conducted online interviews with close to 8,000 law enforcement officers, representing 54 police departments across the country. They also polled over 4,500 individuals that are not associated with law enforcement. What they found is that the officers’ opinions of legalized cannabis closely align with the public’s views. In fact, seven of ten officers support it, while eight in ten Americans do. Not surprisingly, the younger an officer is, as with the public, the more likely they are to believe it should be legalized, or at least decriminalized. That said, they are still twice as likely (30% versus 15%) to advocate for a complete ban on the plant.
The War on Drugs
While law enforcement groups have been among the most ardent supporters of banning cannabis, there are some that believe that its prohibition is the root cause of a substantial number of social issues. Namely, the U.S. Makes up 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of incarcerated adults. This, they say, has led to prison over-crowding, a large number of broken families, wasted tax dollars, and an overall mistrust of authority figures. The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) says that prohibition leads to increased amounts of drug abuse and violence. They advocate for regulations that include age restrictions on cannabis sales and its use. They also believe that it is important to look at new models that create more balanced personal freedoms and individual responsibility.
Age Affects Opinion
There is a definite age disparity among the public when it comes to opinions about whether cannabis should be legal. The younger a person is, the more they favor it. Almost two-thirds of the adult population in the united states under the age of 45 are in favor of cannabis legalization. While law enforcement officers aren’t quite as liberal, there is a growing number of younger officers that believe it should be legal as well. In fact, 37% of the respondents to the survey who were under 35 think that restrictions should be lifted. Their older counterparts aged 50 to 60 aren’t far behind with 27% approving of legalization. This is, perhaps a result of out-dated, negative and oftentimes, unscientific rhetoric about the dangers of marijuana use and its social consequences.
Whilst those in law enforcement continue to have a more conservative view of cannabis than the public, their attitudes are definitely shifting. As more states vote to legalize for both medical and recreational use, it’s certainly likely that attitudes will continue to change. In fact, it’s already happening with only one in three officers believing that it should be banned for all users. It remains to be seen how the new administration will tackle the topic, especially since Trump has said he won’t interfere with the states. However, attorney general Jeff Sessions, has continuously stated that he is personally opposed to cannabis and legalization efforts.
A man in Ohio was so intoxicated that he couldn’t figure out where he put his marijuana. When a police officer walked by his doorstep, the shirtless man inquired if the officer could help him find his bag of marijuana.
Watch what then happened:
Naturally, since this is Ohio and not Colorado, the officer refused to give the man his marijuana back. The man received a ticket for his troubles.
In May, police in riot gear in Santa Ana, California raided the Sky High Holistic medical marijuana dispensary, claiming that it was operating illegally under California law due to the lack of a permit.
Officers forced customers to the floor, used threatening and menacing language, and — after they thought no cameras were recording them or civilians were present to hear their comments — engaged in theft of property (marijuana-infused edibles) and behavior that was neither professional nor becoming of an officer of the law.
During the raid, officers were secretly recorded on video cameras they failed to locate and disable. This infamous video segment that went viral on social media shows officers destroying recording equipment, allegedly eating edibles they have stolen from the dispensary, and disparaging the dispensary’s manager, Marla James, a 54-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee.
In the surveillance footage when referring to James, an officer asks,
“Did you punch that one-legged old benita?”
“I was about to kick her in her f-ing nub.”
Steven Downing, a retired Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, said in response to the raid,
“Look at what’s happened to law enforcement. You don’t have peace officers in our communities anymore, you have warriors, drug warriors.”
The dispensary in June filed a federal lawsuit against the Santa Ana Police Department claiming misconduct, including $100,000 worth of damage to the dispensary and its inventory and the use of excessive force. In response, the Santa Ana Police Department announced that it would conduct an internal investigation.
Now the officers involved in the May raid have filed their own lawsuit, this one claiming that the secretly-captured and embarrassing video segments were a violation of their privacy. They claim that they “had a reasonable expectation that their conversations were no longer being recorded.”
While activists are pessimistic that the Santa Ana PD’s internal investigation will yield anything surprising, medical marijuana advocates are using the incident and ongoing litigation to shine a spotlight on police bigotry against both medical and recreational cannabis consumers and the businesses that serve them. The lack of professionalism in the officers’ behavior — especially toward the dispensary’s manager, James — is an embarrassment to the police department.
The officers also claim that the viral video was edited in a fashion intended to reflect poorly on them. However, the dispenary’s attorney, Matthew Pappas, has provided police with a full-length, unedited version of the recording.
It remains to be seen if this latest lawsuit in the Sky High Holistic raid drama will gain any traction. If the officers win their suit, the video recordings could not be used against them. Many are cautiously optimistic that the officer’s will lose their case and the video footage will stand against them in an investigation or trial.
Regardless of the outcome of this event, the Santa Ana Police Department — and the officers involved in the Sky High Holistic raid specifically — have received a failing grade from community members, their peers in Los Angeles, and progressive citizens throughout the nation who are frustrated with the drug war and its cost to society.
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