California’s legalization seems to be on the horizon, but The Intecept is reporting that at least half of the money being put up for the anti-legalization campaign is from law enforcement and prison guard groups who fear the loss of their jobs and revenue streams if marijuana is legalized in their state. Money obtained through the long-standing U.S. war against drugs has historically gone to fund law enforcement – this includes anything from government grants in the name of safer streets to money seized in drug raids, to say nothing of the 700,000 plus people who are arrested each year for “marijuana-related offenses.”
California’s Current Marijuana Laws
The fight for equal and legal access to medicine for patients in California has been ongoing since 1996, since Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Care Act) allowed caregivers and patients to possess and cultivate cannabis for their own personal use if recommended by a physician (this goes for any condition that marijuana provides relief for). In 2015, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act allowed permits for cultivation and dispensaries, but recreational marijuana is not yet legal in California; this means that people in California can still be jailed for possessing hashish, edibles, or concentrated cannabis extracts.
What the Prison Community Stands to Lose if Marijuana is Legalized in California
John Lovell, a lobbyist for Saramento police chiefs and prison guard supervisors, leads the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies and has raised $60,000 so far in 2016 to fight the legalization of marijuana in California. According to the state of California’s website, contributors to the fund include $10,000 from the California Police Chiefs Assocation; $5,000 from the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, $5K from the Riverside Sheriffs Association, and $10K from the L.A. Deputy State PAC and the L.A. Police Protective League Issues PAC. The California Teamsters Union contributed $25,000, ostensibly in support of the unions which prison guards and police are a part of.
Police departments across the country do not want to lose the federal grants they receive from the U.S. Justice Department as part of the war on drugs – although not all is earmarked for marijuana. Because of the federal failure to reschedule marijuana from its classification with heroin and harder drugs, law enforcement and prison guard organizations will most likely continue to fight legalization in some states. These agencies will also lose all money from marijuana raids in which assets are seized and then given to the police — $181.4 million was seized from California marijuana raids over a period of ten years (2002 to 2012). With the money from states like Washington where recreational and medical marijuana is now legal disappearing, states and the federal government will have to find new ways to fund law enforcement agencies. In addition, many prison guards may have to find a new vocation.
What the Cartels Are Doing to Pad Their Losses
A recent article in the Washington Post noted that Mexican cartels are trying to survive the green rush by pushing more, cheap heroin and methamphetamine on the U.S. Cannabis seized at the border of the U.S. and Mexico has fallen 37% since 2011, and the current opium epidemic in this country associated with pain pills is continuing. Buyers are offered $10 heroin instead of $80 oxycodone in many cases – and the influx of heroin has increased by three times what it was in 2009. Since we know who’s buying it, our best bet is to combat opiate and pain killer abuse in the U.S. population, which can also be done with medical marijuana.