If "cops don't make laws, they just enforce them", why are police opposing marijuana legalization?

Since fourteen states have legalized the use of cannabis for sick and disabled people we here at NORML have reported on numerous stories of medical users harassed, arrested, and jailed by police. We have also reported on healthy adults in all fifty states whose lives are turned upside down by an arrest, sometimes losing student loans, jobs, children, pets, dignity, property, and freedom over a single joint, seed, or even a cannabis stem. When we and others bring up these insane injustices to the police who are making these arrests, we often hear the platitude that “cops don’t make the laws, we just enforce the laws.”
So why do we consistently see representatives of law enforcement opposing medical marijuana, marijuana decriminalization, and marijuana legalization efforts in state legislatures?
In California, the California Narcotics Officers Association schools police officers to believe the public “have been misled… into believing there is merit to their argument that smoking marijuana is a safe and effective medicine.” This is in direct contradiction of the stated position of the American Medical Association otherwise that “short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
In New Jersey, the medical marijuana law was severely curtailed when the Assembly heard the unfounded assertion by a representative of New Jersey’s Fraternal Order of Police that “I’ve heard in California there’s a lot peripheral crime around these centers [medical marijuana dispensaries], I get that from the different law enforcement agencies around the country who I have regular contact with.” This is in direct contradiction of the findings of the Chief of the LAPD who stated: “Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries.” The Chief was responding to the notion that there is greater crime around dispensaries and said “I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra. It doesn’t really bear out.”
And in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs Control publishes a “fact sheet” on marijuana that states: “Today’s new cultivation methods are producing a drug with up to 30 percent THC, or 3,000 percent higher than the old 1960’s-1980’s available marijuana.” This is in direct contradiction to the DEA’s own figures on marijuana potency which find that today’s average cannabis seizure may have doubled in THC potency (a 100% increase, not a 3,000% increase.) Oklahoma’s bureau doesn’t address why 30% THC marijuana is to be feared, but 100% THC Marinol pills are FDA-approved.

The attitudes of most in law enforcement are also contrary to the attitudes of the public. A recent ABC News / Washington Post poll found that support for medical marijuana is now at 81% nationwide, with a majority overall (62% nationwide) who support a system at least as open as Oregon’s OMMA where not-necessarily terminal patients can only qualify if they suffer a specific condition from a list and a majority of those who support medical marijuana (56% of the 81% who support it) supporting an open system like California’s Prop-215 where “doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana to anyone they think it can help”.

But according to a June 2009 survey in POLICE Magazine, even though a majority (54.6%) of police say they support medical marijuana, almost all of those who support it (88%) say it must be only under stricter regulation than we have currently in the medical marijuana states.

When asked about marijuana legalization overall, even for healthy adults, the American Public are also contrary to the opinions of law enforcement. The latest Angus Reid poll is the first to show majority American support for legalization (53%), while the latest Gallup poll puts support at 44%, its best mark in forty years of polling.

But according to the same POLICE survey, marijuana legalization has less than half the support among cops than among the public they protect and serve. Only 23% of police supported re-legalization of cannabis.
When asked why, specifically, those police who opposed re-legalization felt that way, eight in ten said that marijuana is a “gateway drug”, there was the danger of “people driving high”, and seven in ten cited the “harm to user and society”. Longtime NORML readers know that the gateway drug theory has been debunked by the Institutes of Medicine in 1999 and every reputable study over the past ten years. While everybody, especially NORML, discourages driving under the influence of cannabis, we understand that there are people behaving irresponsibly now and re-legalization would not encourage less responsibility, but more. Under re-legalization, money raised from taxes could sponsor anti-stoned-driving campaigns like the ones that have successfully reduced drunk driving.

As for the “harm to user and society”, POLICE readers still felt by a margin of 3-2 that alcohol was “more of a threat to the community” than marijuana. (The survey does not record the support among police for reinstating alcohol prohibition to prevent alcohol’s “harm to user and society”, however.) This 39% of police who believe marijuana is safer than alcohol comes closest to matching public opinion, which shows now a slim majority (51%) believe marijuana is safer than alcohol.

While the general public is barely approaching majority support for outright marijuana legalization, the public has long held the belief that any punishment for adult marijuana possession should be a fine only. Three out of four Americans (76%) believe that if marijuana users are to be punished, they should only be fined and not arrested and sent to jail. Yet the POLICE Magazine survey finds that two out of three cops (65%) think it is “worth law enforcement’s time to bust marijuana users”.
Another area where police opinions differ from the public is on the issue of the murderous Mexican drug gangs that have assassinated, kidnapped, murdered, tortured, and beheaded over 15,000 Mexicans in just two years. The Arizona Attorney General has cited that “marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money that Mexican cartels use for other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the Mexican army and police.” But in the POLICE Magazine survey, two-thirds of cops (68%) believe marijuana legalization would have no “favorable impact on problems associated with gangs and cartels.”
So do the police know something about the dangers of cannabis use that the American Medical Association, the American people, and the Arizona Attorney General do not? A cynic might think that police are merely acting in their own best interest, protecting their source of easy statistic-padding arrests and asset forfeiture bounty, but I’m more inclined to believe many of these front-line soldiers in the War on Marijuana are acting in good faith based on terrible misinformation about cannabis.

0 thoughts

  1. Mr. Sam Odonell is quite correct when he points out boorish behaviour on my behalf. My distaste for anti-marijuana warriors sometimes colors my judgement. And, as he mentioned, I DO hate a government that tries to demonize a segment of society, just to gain political points with “their” people.
    It is discrimination in its purest form.

  2. a historical view of pigs may help clear things up.
    Q; what did pigs do initially?
    –A; before the drug war, there were 2 types of crime;
    1. violent crime like murder, rape, assault, etc. violent crime was taken care of by a sheriff, & deputy.
    2. PROPERTY CRIMES like theft, vandalism, arson, burglary, etc.
    PROPERTY CRIMES are what made a standing police force necessary.
    therefore; A MAJORITY OF POLICE WORK has always been PROTECTING THE RICH PEOPLE’S PROPERTY from the poor, who had no property. and thus upholding the STATUS QUO. RICH STAY RICH, POOR STAY POOR.
    Q; what’s the origin of pigs in usa ?
    —A; two places;
    1. north; to PROTECT rich factory owners, from the workers they were abusing.
    2. south; to PROTECT rich plantation owners/ slave owners from the slaves they were abusing.
    these were “enforcers for the rich”
    —NOT “public servants”.
    (note; the ‘founding fathers’ were rich landowners in europe, before they came here. so there was a rich ruling class or “modern monarchy” right from the start)
    the police department is JUST ANOTHER system of control, just like the political system, (where “electoral colledge” or supreme court can override your vote) the tax laws that favor “un-earned income” like capitol gains and dividends over earned income, or religion, (that tells the abused poor they wil get their DUE, later, in heaven, so don’t worry about it now)
    -to assure that the RICH AND POWERFULL STAY THAT WAY, FOREVER, and to keep the poor in their place.
    -and the peons are told this is all for their own good.
    this is why the BIGGEST BANK BOBBERY in the history of the world resulted in NO arrests,
    instead, the guilty were “rescued” with billions more of our dollars.
    if the pigs are ignoring the constitution because they were “just following orders”, we need to look at who’s giving the orders
    -career politicians and the “big money” behind them.
    the “modern monarchy”, our overlords and masters.

  3. When I was in Amsterdam recently sampling the local fare, I noticed that the police were absolutely uninterested in the smell of haze that permeated every corner of the straats. They were more interested in the geese.
    I visited at a time when the canals were mostly frozen and the geese were walking through the city holding up trams and cars. I saw two cops directing geese traffic while I was walking stoned through the Liedsestraat and thought to myself, “That’s exactly what cops should be doing.” Can you imagine this attitude in the US…cops concerning themselves with serving the community in a constructive and practical way. Beautiful.

  4. Mr. Calisway, don’t hold your breath waiting for the pigs–oops! I meant the fuzz–to act in a logical, civilized fashion. But, it’s not their fault, poor, brainless fops. (you like that word..”FOPS”? Shades of Charles Dickens, don’t you think?) The problem with this country (I know I’m gonna get in trouble for this) is the power wielded by ignorant, politically-active, Religious Conservatives.
    In the 1970s, a glorious, liberated era, I had some friends that were born-again Christians. They were so completely brainwashed by those “Fellowship” meetings that they wouldn’t listen to any other viewpoints. And they kept pressuring me to attend one of their meetings, so I could experience the “joy” that they felt. Well, one day, I gave in and went there. Never in my life did I see such a collection of ROBOTS, all acting the same way. It completely turned me off. Not only that, but my friend became sngry that I didn’t become “saved” like him. If anything, it reaffirmed my respect for intellectuals and science.
    Today, over 30 years later, I still don’t understand how so many people got brainwashed by that GARBAGE.

  5. Some people want to be part of something bigger than they are so much that they don’t even care if it’s based on truth or the invisible man. As long as they feel like they belong. Some people need to feel like people are complying to there commands, police are a combination of these types of people. The rules police!.. You know them they are the grammar police, fashion police, etc, etc… They are happiest when they are impossing thier will on others.

  6. It is interesting to read the replies to my original post. I was not disappointed by the immediate leap to calling me immoral, uneducated, uninformed, and more. Even your “Editor” jumped on the band wagon.
    I appreciated Ed McCann’s comments and suspect he is the only real intelligence in this blog. His comments reflect the true nature of my post.
    I invite those of you readers who claim to have an open mind, seeking justice and the American way, to re-read his post and mine.
    Ed wrote “We CANNOT overgeneralize and say cops are crooked, cops just want to throw us in jail, etc. That does not advance our cause at all. What might advance our cause is understanding why police hold the views they do, how they justify them, and then working to change those views.”
    How astute he is in his observation.
    Ed also wrote “Yes, some cops are perjurers and plant evidence. Yes, some potheads engage in other criminal acts. But don’t say all of them are.”
    I would wholeheartedly agree that it is likely there are users of your drug that are normal productive citizens. I would submit that I do not have contact with those particular persons on a regular basis.
    Ed asks “what WILL win us support from law enforcement and legislators? Honest, adult, rational dialogue?” In a word: yes. I would amend this word to include that as not every pot smoker shares your view, Ed, not every police officer shares mine. This is demonstrative of debates concerning politics or religion. Pot smokers seem to treat their interests as a religion and attack those of differing opinions with voracity.
    I also invite “idiotcop” to think about why so many people post such harsh views of the police. Does he find those views helpful or hurtful in doing his job?
    — I am not surprised by the vocal minority’s harsh views of the police. When anyone, be it police, politicians, clergy, moms or dads, dare to impose societal rules or expectations on this segment of the populace, those persons will spew venom against the rulemakers and enforcement.
    Are they justified at all? — Perhaps they are justified, but why should law enforcement not do exactly the same? What could the pot smokers do to reassure the community that they are not the criminals and miscreants that the stereotypical pothead has been portrayed as?
    “And finally, does “idiotcop” believe that re-prohibition of alcohol would solve the problems associated with it?” — This is a ridiculous question, isn’t it? No, obviously re-prohibition is not the answer. However, I would submit that your question as to “would prohibition of some substances actually reduces their use?” could easily be answered “yes” as well as “no”.
    Thank you Ed for your rational reply, I would be happy to dialogue with you in the future. You seem to be the only one here that figured out my moniker “idiotcop” was sarcasm.

  7. Mr. “Idiotcop”, or whatever you want to call yourself, if you want to be respected, you must show some respect to those who have a different view about life.
    Now, I am over 50 and I’ve been smoking herb since 1969. I have never, ever had a problem with it, nor have I ever been “lead” to harder drugs because of it. In most cases, young people experiment with harder drugs becuase of peer pressure. If you are under 65, then you know this to be true.
    Alright, I’ll admit that I get very disrespectful myself toward people with prohibitionist opinions. I regret that but, you must understand that after negative interraction with Conservatives, I get very aggravated. Why don’t you cops do what New York cops did in the 1970s : ignore it. People will get along a lot better that way. Concentrate on REAL crime, such as burglary, robbery, rape, murder, assaults–the type of activity that makes our cities unlivable. Forget trying to impose your morality on people, it just leads to bad feelings.

  8. Idiotcop claims to be intelligent and yet he completely missed the point of this blog posting… So much so that he illustrated the point of it perfectly. Maybe he didn’t even look at the blogs stats, like LEO treats the medical evidience out thier as well.
    Read below then I will explain.
    “Are they justified at all? — Perhaps they are justified, but why should law enforcement not do exactly the same? What could the pot smokers do to reassure the community that they are not the criminals and miscreants that the stereotypical pothead has been portrayed as?”
    “Reassure the community!!! We are not criminals and miscreants!!… didnt the stats just show that the majority of the community supports it.. So IdiotCop, are you saying the community which you protect and serve is in support of criminal and miscreant activity, which you as law enforcement must protect society from, regardless of the majority of societies opinions and wishes?
    I challenge idiotcop to review the stats in the blog. IdiotCop, determine if you will how you figure your views are the majority that we should be reassuring medical marijuana is not the activity of criminals and miscreants to!?
    This is taken from above:
    “The attitudes of most in law enforcement are also contrary to the attitudes of the public. A recent ABC News / Washington Post poll found that support for medical marijuana is now at 81% nationwide, with a majority overall (62% nationwide) who support a system at least as open as Oregon’s OMMA where not-necessarily terminal patients can only qualify if they suffer a specific condition from a list and a majority of those who support medical marijuana (56% of the 81% who support it) supporting an open system like California’s Prop-215 where “doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana to anyone they think it can help”.”
    In fact, based on these stats law enforcement should be reassuring us they are not criminals and miscreants, as thier views are the ones out of line with societal norms.
    IdiotCop your write well, but I suspect your name is more truthful than you realize.

  9. so i just moved to western north carolina and everyone keeps telling me that cannabis is decriminalized here, so i looked it up. its decriminalized, but why are the punishments harsher here then in some states where its not decriminalized?

  10. Cops make money enforcing pot laws! They have abandoned pursuit of justice for a few pieces of silver.
    Every end shift pot bust is worth $40. If the case goes to court, it’s an extra $100/day.
    Do you ever wonder why 30 deputies are loitering around for a totally non-violent medical marijuana dispensary raid— again they get paid to do it. Those lazy good fornothings get time and a half for such work (average$300/day)
    That’s not all. If a forfeiture is involved there’s a bigger reward.
    ***Individual offers cannot share in forfeiture money you say***
    Here’s one way they do it. The local police force gets a cut of forfeiture cash. Then they have a seminar for the Narks— to wit: cops in Minnesota get two weeks “extra training” in Florida in January! The training is held in the same hotel they stay at. In the morning the cops go to the training room, sit through 5 minutes of “training” and then are free for the day.
    They do it for the money!

  11. Cops usually come from Conservative families and they usually are rather Conservative themselves. This is due to the fact that they are either ignorant or brainwashed by their friends or family members. I know this from this experience. On my father’s side of the family, they are more Conservative on ALL subjects, including Marijuana (a TRUE gift of the gods!). ON my mother’s side of the family, they are more Liberal. My father’s brother has 3 sons. One is a born-again “Christian”, another is a big pot-smoker, but he’s very brainwashed on other issues. The third is a Gay man, so he’s not Conservative on anything!
    This past summer, I visited my uncle, and I got into a discussion with the so-called “Christian”. We got into it, hardcore.
    My point is that in cop families, you must have the same conflicts. In fact, if those families don’t have any members as enlightened as yours truly, then the pressure to be a Conservative is even stronger.

  12. @hydrocula: you are an ass. Society has “rules” and it has “laws”. Dont get the two confused. If you want to wear white after Labor Day or were your hat into a Church or want to pick food from your teeth after dinner at a restaurant then go ahead. People are going to look at you and may even comment to you. You’ll get over it little boy.
    Then there are laws. Currently it is ILLEGAL (learn the definition of the word) to possess, sell, smoke pot. Once again, you’ll get over this when you grow up. If you dont like it then move to a State that allows it. Respect (another word you need to learn the definition of it seems) the law and the rules of society. You do NOT have to have brown hair, if you want green hair then no one is stopping you but holy shit, dont start speaking like are are ENTITLED to things just because you think it.

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