On my first day visiting Reef Dispensaries in Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the opportunity to chat with a former police chief and present-day security guard for the company. As a journalist, I couldn’t help but ask what he — and other guards — thought about the long-waged “War on Drugs” in the United States. His answer both surprised and elated me.
As the unnamed veteran gave commands to his K9 partner, he explained that he and other police officers had long-concluded that the criminalization of marijuana is uncalled for. He said in his 15+ years on the police force, he never once saw a violent offense result from a user of marijuana.
Because of this, he said, cannabis — in all of its forms — needs to be decriminalized across the nation. We continued to talk about the various ways it could stimulate the economy, help heal people’s various ails, and, possibly, even contribute to a raising of consciousness.
The conversation was enlightening, to say the least. It confirmed my personal beliefs that most police officers aren’t the “bad guys,” as many Americans have come to believe. Rather, they are just attempting to do their job, which is outlined by the federal government.
Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States, law enforcement workers must seize marijuana and reprimand offenders in states where it is still prohibited. For some, it is a tough order to swallow. However, the men and women who seek to preserve order must abide by the regulations.
If marijuana were to be legalized nation-wide, officers could spend their time searching for real criminals and states would save money. These are just two reasons law enforcement workers want marijuana to be legalized. Several more follow:
1) Legalizing marijuana would save money
Attempting to catch every single marijuana offender is a costly endeavor. According to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), federal and state governments have spent more than $1 trillion attempting to fight a losing war on drugs for the last 40 years. Police officers recognize that by legalizing the herb, individual states would save money (while at the same time make millions by taxing the plant).
Just look at Washington state. Since legalizing weed for recreational use, a single cannabis arrest could cost the state up to $2,000 in legal fees. Between the years of 2000 and 2010, Washington state spent more than $200 million trying to catch cannabis users, according to DPA statistics. That’s a lot of wasted money. By making it possible for the public to purchase regulated and tested weed through licensed businesses, states save a bounty of money.
2) Legalizing the bud will stop shady cops
By legalizing the herb, the likelihood of shady cop practices reduces. This is because programs like the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant provide incentive for departments to establish anti-drug task forces.
Says the DPA, “These task forces are at the center of numerous scandals involving falsified government records, witness tampering, fabricated evidence, false imprisonment, stolen property, large-scale racial profiling and sexual abuse.”
The pattern was confirmed in a report by the Brennan Center for Justice. Reportedly, federal funding of this kind changes the behavior of police officers and prosecutors. Herb reports: “In 2011 a former NYPD narcotics detective named Stephen Anderson testified before a New York court that officers routinely planted drugs on innocent individuals in order to meet quotas.”
That’s not all. In some states, private prisons are in charge of those quotas. According to a 2013 report from the research firm In the Public Interest, the majority of the contracts require the prisons to remain 80 to 100 percent full. The state can incur penalties if this demand is not met. Because of this, the legalization of marijuana means shady police practices are less likely to occur.
3) Legalizing means harm reduction
When a person is found to possess an illegal substance, the law mandates they be punished. But this isn’t always the best course of action, especially when a person is using the substance to cope with deeper issues.
Rather than throw offenders in jail, people need to be offered the tools and support for change. “To break their addiction,” says LEAP, “they need support with mental and physical health problems, homelessness, and unemployment, but our only tools are arrest and incarceration, which often make these problems worse.”
As Herb points out, prohibition forces those with issues to go underground. It also requires police officers to waste their time seeking out recreational smokers who pose no threat to the local community or themselves.
4) Legalizing the herb would reduce crime
What is a police officer’s primary objective? To maintain order so a better society might result. It is proven that marijuana users are less violent and tend to be in healthier relationships. Because of this, many cops want the bud to be legalized nationwide.
A report by the National Incident-Based Reporting System supports this notion. Since Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, the overall crime in the state between 2011 and 2014 decreased by 10 percent. Similar results were also witnessed at the University of Texas in Dallas between 1990 and 2006 following the legalization of medical marijuana. There was a decrease in violent crimes and homicides.
While more research needs to be conducted, it seems clear marijuana reduces the impulse to be violent, whereas pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol tend to exacerbate it.
For these reasons and many more, a large percentage of cops in the United States are in support of legalizing cannabis. What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
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