Retired Top Cops Slam Arguments Against Legalizing Pot - Stephen C. Webster - Brave New Hooks - True/Slant
Retired Top Cops Slam Arguments Against Legalizing Pot
By STEPHEN C. WEBSTER
This fall, California will consider repealing marijuana prohibition by way of a voter-sponsored ballot initiative called Proposition 19. If passed, it would stand as a direct affront to federal law, representing the most significant change in a state’s drug policy since cannabis was first outlawed in 1937.
Though marijuana legalization is largely a liberal and progressive cause célèbre, it may be fair to say that the state’s elected Democrats aren’t exactly cuckoo for these coco-puffs.
Prominent California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein has declared her opposition to Prop. 19, signing a ballot argument against legalization put forward by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Sen. Barbara Boxer and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown were quick to adopt Feinstein’s position, and the state’s Democratic party, while apparently torn on the issue, officially elected to stay neutral fearing their support could damage state-wide candidates.
In spite of Democratic opposition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a drug policy reform group made up of former cops, judges and federal agents, seems to stand perhaps the best chance of swaying the state’s drug policy establishment. They’ve put forward a ballot argument in favor of Prop. 19, and three of their most prominent members from California law enforcement have signed it.
In an exclusive interview, the former police chief of San Jose and the former deputy police chief of Los Angeles County — both members of LEAP — took to task those favoring continued prohibition, insisting that both Sen. Feinstein and MADD level an “emotional, unreasoned” argument for keeping pot illegal.
In a ballot argument against legalization (PDF link), Feinstein and MADD argue that Prop. 19 could cost California school districts $9.4 billion in federal funding, as they would no longer be able to meet federal drug-free standards. They also fret that colleges and universities in California will lose out on federal grants, which is a very real threat that LEAP did not address.
The main thrust of their argument is that due to the ballot initiative’s wording, officers or other public officials would not be able to take preemptive action against stoned drivers: they’d have to wait for accidents to happen. Much of the argument focuses on school bus drivers, and how they could be permitted to ingest marijuana and transport children, leaving the hands of authority bound until someone got hurt.
“Their argument is specious and I don’t think it’s based on any emperical evidence,” contended Steven Downing, the former Los Angeles County deputy police chief. “It’s kinda like, we make things up in order to pass laws. Well, come up with the facts.”