The Law Is The Law Is The Law: What Part Of This Concept Don't Cops Understand?

On election day 2008, 63 percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, legalizing the possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis by qualified patients. Over three million voters decide ‘yes’ on the measure, which won in all of the state’s 83 counties.
As of December 4, 2008, Proposal 1 is now Michigan state law. But don’t tell that to Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler, who recently told reporters, “We’re just not sure how it’s going to shake out. … It’s going to be business as usual until we’re told different.”
Actually, sir, you have been “told different.” (Well, “told differently” were the Sheriff to use proper grammar.) Three million of Michigan voters, the folks you are sworn to ‘protect and serve,’ definitively told you: Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan. Like it or not, the law — you know the rules you’re sworn to uphold — says so.
Meanwhile, police officials in Massachusetts — where 65 percent of voters approved legislation reducing penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of pot to a civil infraction — are also feigning ignorance.

Confusion cited over marijuana law
via The Republican
Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.
He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations. He said he is unsure who would conduct hearings on appeals of citations for marijuana possession. “Somebody has to come up with a mechanism,” the chief said.

If you listen closely you may be able to hear the world’s smallest violin playing just for Police Chief Campbell. Seriously, Massachusetts cops write citations for other offenses that the state defines as infractions, right? I mean, this is not a new concept in policing is it? And really, if these cops and District Attorneys are so ‘confused,’ why don’t any of them take a moment to actually read the new law? All they have to do is log on to the Internet and go here.
Finally, there’s this related news story from Missoula, Montana. As you may recall, in 2006 53 percent of county voters approved a law recommending police to make the enforcement of marijuana possession laws their ‘lowest priority.’ Fat chance.

Missoula Marijuana Arrests Up, Report Suggests
via New West Missoula
A report released Wednesday suggests a jump in marijuana offenses in Missoula County compared to last year, despite the passage in 2006 of Initiative 2, the “marijuana initiative,” which made adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses the County’s lowest law enforcement priority.
Marijuana incidents in the City of Missoula, the County and on the University of Montana campus are up 27 percent, the report estimates; 63 percent in the city alone.
The numbers are stark enough for the Community Oversight Committee that compiled the report (PDF) to conclude: “The voters’ recommendation is apparently being ignored by most of the officials in a position to heed it.”

Just a few points to ponder next time you hear your local sheriff claiming, “We don’t make the laws; we just enforce them.” Now please pardon me while I go throw up.

0 thoughts

  1. Any news on whether the vote in MA will even go into effect as law? Last we all heard, the results had been certified on Wednesday, but MA law allows them to amend/repeal them….

  2. Here in Missoula Montana, there are two active local law enforcement agencies — the city police and the county sheriff’s dept. It’s the city police who (by the numbers) seem to have increased their reporting of marijuana incidents by 60+% since the initiative passed. This may be particularly disappointing to city residents, where the lowest priority initiative passed with a vote of 80%+ in some precincts. You can view the map here: http://i2files.montanadrugpolicy.org/
    So…. 80% of voters in big swaths of the city recommended lowest priority for pot, and pot citations in the city increased!
    Next step for Montana NORML is to rally members to put pressure on our mayor (http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/mayor/) and city council (http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/citycouncil/) to formally adopt a lowest priority policy at the city level, since the passage of Missoula County Initiative #2 obviously hasn’t brought about the changes the voters asked for.

  3. A Police State has members of law enforcement making up the rules as they go to make the job easy and fun. They don’t like to be told that their fun is about to end… especially from the citizen’s that pay their wages. Or they may have forgotten that this country is supposed to be a Democracy… with a capital D.

  4. this is retarded….The FEDERAL Law is not overridden by STATE law. The same issue came up in California when medicinal marijuana was prescribed to patients and they were later fired from their jobs even though they provided documentation that they were on the drug as issued by the hospital. The state is not allowed to override federal laws and whatever Michigan does it doesn’t matter since the FEDERAL law takes priority…

  5. Lol. I just commented on change.org the other day about this in Michigan.

    This just in from Google Alerts…
    MAssachusetts Passed decriminization in EVERY county!
    Police don’t know what to do!!!
    “”
    Confusion cited over marijuana law
    Thursday, December 04, 2008
    By DAN RING dring@repub.com
    BOSTON – Amid confusion among police and prosecutors, a voter-approved law to decriminalize the possession of marijuana goes into effect on Jan. 2, according to a spokeswoman for the state attorney general.
    The date was set after the Governor’s Council on Wednesday voted to certify the results of the Nov. 4 election including a ballot question to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
    The question was approved by 65 percent to 35 percent statewide and passed in every county in the state.
    Emily J. LaGrassa, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the ballot question takes effect 30 days after the officials results are presented to the Governor’s Council.
    In an e-mail on Wednesday, she said Jan. 2 is the date the law takes effect.
    Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.
    He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations. He said he is unsure who would conduct hearings on appeals of citations for marijuana possession.
    “Somebody has to come up with a mechanism,” the chief said. Geline W. Williams, executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said there are some “very, very significant” problems with putting the law into effect.
    Amherst Town Meeting member Terence J. Franklin, who supports Question 2, said the new law should be easy to put in place.
    “Why not just leave people alone?” Franklin added. “What’s the big deal? That will solve all the worries.”
    According to a legal bulletin provided by the state’s Trial Court to the state’s district courts, Question 2 replaces criminal penalties with civil penalties for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.
    A violator will be issued a civil citation and must either pay $100 civil penalty to a city or town clerk or request a civil hearing before a clerk or a judge.
    A copy of the citation must be sent to parents of any violator younger than 18.
    Such teenagers are also required within one year to attend a drug awareness program, the bulletin said.
    Terrell W. Harris, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said official guidance on the law will be provided before it goes into effect.
    Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke is working on the effort with the attorney general and law enforcement agencies. “There is nothing I can say publicly right now,” Harris said.
    Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett said last month he would drop all pending charges of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. Bennett said he would not prosecute new cases after Nov. 4.
    Bennett said he would honor the spirit of the ballot question before it legally takes effect.
    Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said there are very serious issues that need to be resolved before the new law starts operating.
    “I think that people are going to wake up to the fact that this wasn’t the very simple piece of legislation it was sold to them as,” Capeless said.
    Material from the State House News Service was used for this report.
    “”
    http://www.masslive.com/metrowest/republican/index.ssf?/
    base/news-16/1228378549170260.xml&coll=1&thispage=2
    Like leaving people alone or just writing a new name on a ticket is really that hard to figure out. APPARENTLY they have ‘”very, very significant” problems with putting the law into effect.’.
    HOW EMBARRASSING!
    -Dan
    Posted by Daniel on 12/04/2008 @ 11:40AM PST

    The police are acting stupid.

  6. With a high school diploma and 9 weeks of training, you to can shoot to kill. The problem is, pot heads are easy targets, they don’t fight back, nor have a gun. Most arrest are under the age of 30 with little money for a lawyer nor an understanding of how the legal system is set up to take your money and possibly your future.
    If the people want a law changed and they change it, then the police have to adide. Or, can “we” arrest them if they do not follow the laws.

  7. It’s all about the money Potheads have it cops want it. Why should law get in their way?
    Most of these wannabe heros would still be robbing kids for their lunch money if they thought they could still get away with it.

  8. Pardon me, but…I do believe that the police still have no choice. Even if they’re only at the state level of protection, just like the new laws that have been passed in those states, the FEDERAL Law, which is always above the state law, still holds that marijuana is illegal. Smokers of it may not break the state law, but they still break the federal law, and if police do nothing to stop it, they are, in turn, also breaking the law by not enforcing the federal law WHICH ALWAYS COMES FIRST, NO MATTER THE STATE. Granted, they may need authority from a higher position to engage in the arresting of pot smokers to carry out this, but, since federal law wins, they are obliged to carry it out, if only to save themselves from losing their job/going to jail. I, too, wish marijuana was legalized, but, since it’s not a federal thing yet, I’ll hold off until things blow over.

  9. Anyone that cannot or will not comply with law should be fired. Perhaps the risk of job loss can be an incentive! I have never seen so many people that just can’t seem to grasp fact, reason and reality. This is just absurd.

  10. speaking of federal law…..marijuana is currently scheduled as a category one narcotic by the federal government which means that according to them it has no medicinal use whatsoever. This hypocracy can not be overstated as the federal government currently sends five surviving patients from a little known program 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes a month. One of the guys is a successful stock broker from Florida. Most people are unaware of this and this is why I am sharing this information with you. Here is a link and there are many videos about this on youtube including Irvin testifying before the Michigan medical comittee .
    For more info just google Irvin Rosenfeld.
    http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2005/
    02/18/irvRosenbergAndTheCompassi.html

  11. What’s going to happen is we’re going to have a 2nd American Revolution, we’re already seeing the Military in some U.S. cities work hand and hand with cops- in effect breaking the Posse Comitatus Act, we are going into an Orwellian society of Totalitarianism(a concept used to describe political systems where a state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private life).People are wrong when they say it could never happen here, its the old frog in the pot analogy, they’ve steadily turned the heat up on us incrementally. The U.S. puts more people in prison than any other country, and for what mostly? Drugs or drug related crimes! We are heading for hard times, just 2 years ago there was a police chief in Houston ,TX named Harold Hurtt that suggested putting surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets and even PRIVATE HOMES! wtf ? He said it’s another way of combatting crime amid a shortage of officers.Its people like this that are running amok in the government, there will be a breaking point, and when it happens, they won’t win.

  12. Even if federal law comes first, which may or may not be the case, State, County, and City police departments are NOT federal agents, and have no business enforcing federal law, let the local pigs worry about local ordinances and laws and let the feds worry about that. I dont buy that its the local cops job to enforce federal law, and neither does the supreme court.

  13. To poster #6…
    Court Tells Feds They Violated the 10th Amendment
    The battle for medical marijuana usage in California took a turn for the people recently when a US District Judge ruled that the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars the federal government from targeting the enforcement of federal laws to intentionally subvert state medical marijuana laws.
    California’s landmark 1996 medical marijuana law has been upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, thus denying a Bush administration request to dismiss a lawsuit by Santa Cruz city and county officials and the Wo/Mens Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) ,against them.
    The ruling is the first of it’s kind. It’s also the first time a court recognized that a concerted effort by the federal government to sabotage state medical marijuana laws violates the U.S. Constitution.
    This ruling is important because it recognizes the constitutional significance of the fact that the federal government has gone out of it’s way to arrest and prosecute some of the most legitimate doctors, patients, caregivers, and dispensary owners that have been working with state and local officials.
    One example is WAMM. The organization is widely recognized as a model medical marijuana patients collective, and has been fully supported by the City and County of Santa Cruz, and has been functioning smoothly in strict compliance with city and county ordinances and California state law.
    The city even allowed WAMM to hold regular meetings to distribute marijuana to it’s members on the steps of City Hall. The non-profit organization has been operating now for 15 years.
    The feds were taken to task by the ACLU who filed the lawsuit to stop them for targeting medical marijuana providers and patients. The Bush administration wanted to sue city and county officials in Santa Cruz, along with WAMM.
    The judge tossed out their lawsuit, and said that the U.S.Attorney General Michael Mukasey, DEA agents involved in the raid of WAMM, and administrators of the DEA and Office of National Drug Control Policy violated the U.S.Constitution.
    He noted that these agencies were threatening physicians who recommended marijuana. He also said that they threatened government officials who issue medical marijuana identification cards, and interfered with municipal zoning plans.
    The judge also ruled that there was a calculated pattern of selective arrest and prosecutions by the federal government with the intent to render, “California’s medical marijuana laws impossible to implement and therefore forced Californian’s and their political subdivisions to re- criminalize medical marijuana.
    With the judges ruling we now have a potential breakthrough on the war against medical marijuana. It was a wise decision because the marijuana brings the state about $100 million each year in tax revenue, and it is finally saying that Californian’s will get their wish’s carried out after 12 years of illegal warfare.
    There’s no doubt it’s a setback for Bush and his cronies, who have been so happily violating Californian’s pot law since it was passed by a majority of voters. Wamm is now clear to file suit against the feds who raided them back in 2002.
    California’s top law dog, Jerry Brown passed out new medical marijuana guidelines recently that say even the feds are supposed to honor them. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach, but this is still good news.
    As It Stands, with the Bush regime fading away we can only hope that whoever takes office will allow Californians their liberty and their laws.

  14. Okay, let us clear the State/Fed discrepancy. The Fed. gov says, cannabis is illegal, (Controlled Substance Act) Supreme Court rules, “No medical exemption,” yet, the states can make certain laws regarding the states’ public health, and without exception, cannabis for medicinal purposes. It is against the CSA BUT the states have their own rights! If you believe that the Federal government ought to be able to make decisions about cannabis in every single state, you know little about this country and lack faith in the system. If states don’t give up, only the Federal law enforcement, (i.e. DEA) need enforce the law if states, counties and municipalities decriminalize cannabis. (THAT MEANS YOU LOCAL, COUNTY AND STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT) Let the Feds do their job, let states do their own and law enforcement can fuck off until they stop seizing civil assets w/out prop. of evidence in “in-rem” proceedings!!

  15. RE: a few of the earlier comments…
    Massachusetts decrim law is expected to take effect sometime after the first week in January.
    RE the federal law/state law issue. 1) State police are sworn to uphold the laws of their state, not federal laws. There are federal law enforcement officials for that task. 2) Federal anti-drug laws do not override medical marijuana laws. SEE:
    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7678
    Opining for the Court, Justice Alex McDonald determined: “The purpose of the [federal law] is to combat recreational drug use, not to regulate a state’s medical practices. … Because the [federal] law does not compel the states to impose criminal penalties for marijuana possession, the requirement that counties issue cards identifying those against whom California has opted not to impose criminal penalties does not positive conflict with the US Controlled Substances Act.”

  16. ps: Federal law DOES NOT trump state law. The problem is, we’re so far removed from the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution that lawyers can give compelling evidence why federal should supersede state law, but that’s not the case. States were supposed to be INDEPENDENT of each other, the only time federal law comes into play is when there is trade between the states.
    From the book “The Marijuana Conviction,” (first published in 1974 and available NOW from half.com: http://product.half.ebay.com/_W0QQcpidZ1442757QQprZ994447 or you could read some of the research contained therein at tinyurl.com/potconviction ) page 16: “Why had Congress chosen this awkward revenue mechanism for what was clearly a regulatory enactment? In simple terms, Congress was attempting to do indirectly what it believed it could not do directly: regulate the practice of medicine and the intrastate sale and possession of drugs. In 1914 when Congress enacted the Harrison Act, the prevailing interpretation of its powers to regulate interstate and foreign commerce and to raise revenue was that these powers were limited and that the power to regulate “local” affairs had been reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment. Thus, as the Supreme Court pointed out in 1925 in a case construing the act, “direct control of medical practice in the states is beyond the power of the Federal Government.” By using its taxing powers, however, Congress was regulating these local activities only “incidentally,” in order to facilitate implementation of its primary intent — the raising of revenue. Ultimately, the Supreme Court allowed Congress to get away with this ruse, but only by a five-to-four margin.”

  17. See also tinyurl.com/1mn which is a transcription of the speech given by Charles Whitebread, Professor of Law, USC Law School: “A Speech to the California Judges Association 1995 annual conference”

  18. We must all understand the police problem with question 2, for 40 years they have been misleading and lying to the public, all for state revenue. Very few people are able to admit when they are wrong, this will take time but eventually they will all hide in the herd and admit thier wrongdoing anonymously.

  19. James A, you believe wrong! When state law conflicts with federal state law enforcement’s job is to follow state law they work for the citizens of the state that’s who pays them.
    Local and state law enforcement has no power to arrest anyone for federal crimes that power rest with federal law enforcement. The only time a state law enforcement officer can you if when you violate a state law Period End of Story!
    On top of that enforcing federal law that conflicts with state law will probably leave local cops open to law suits like those happening in Colorado where people are suing for the loss of their medicine.

  20. Law enforcement seems to be losing the drug war on all fronts. I guess their marijuana prohibition activism is just not working. Time for them to shut up and do their job, as we define it.

  21. This is actually quite frightening. it shows that in certain instances the police are writing their own rules. a police state is a dangerous place for people to live. it shows a “we know better than you” and “for your own good” mentality that is nothing short communism. I implore each and every citizen of Michigan and Massachusetts to write their governors and bring this ignorance out into the open.

  22. “Just a few points to ponder next time you hear your local sheriff claiming, “We don’t make the laws; we just enforce them.” Now please pardon me while I go throw up.” Hey Paul, I’ll be in the stall right next to you. I can’t stand these arrogant assholes, thinking they are better than everyone else.
    To these idiots:
    “We’re just not sure how it’s going to shake out…” Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler
    and
    “Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.
    He said he had no information on how to issue fines or write citations.”
    What was that thing I used to hear all the time? Oh yeah, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse!” If you don’t know the law, get a real job, dickhead!!!

  23. It baffles me how some people still resist change like this. I mean I know tradition is a strong force but jeez, the movement to legalize medical marijuana is pretty damned universal. Great article.

  24. Sue them. Wrongful arrest, whatever, sue them for something. But find a lawyer who isn’t a pantywaist first –they just want a deal or whatever it takes to NOT go to trial. NO PLEA DEALS EVER!
    GO TO TRIAL. It ties up their funds, draws unwanted attention, and when you win, it brings down the prosecuter’s career one notch for losing.
    MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT. That is exactly what they don’t want. They are betting all of their sheckels that you will quietly do as you are told, and the drug war will continue marching on as usual. Enough of that.
    We played the system’s game and won and now they are crying about it. So it is either time to honor the system or BREAK THE SYSTEM!

  25. As I understand it, the police do NOT have an obligation to uphold federal law. If the state law says do not arrest pot users then the police should not arrest pot users. Not real hard to understand. The whining assholes in Massachusetts are proof that if a police state does not already exist, it is on it’s way. Logically, if we turn this around, the police officer who arrests a person minding his own business but is found to possess a small amount of cannabis, should lose his job immediately along with his boss. This drug war is a sorry state of affairs to say the least. It reminds me of the separation of church and state which is abused all the time. The religious nutjobs want and demand to control their neighbors lives and to hell with their freedoms promised by the constitution. The majority of Americans do not want people’s lives destroyed by a simple marijuana possession charge. But people who have power over the masses want to control them to their benefit. It’s a pretty old human nature which should be stomped out, violently if necessary.

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