Joseph McNamara RIP: Champion Against Cops Drug Warring

A genuinely early and respected voice against the war on some drugs passed away Friday, September 19 in California.

Joe McNamara was a former police chief in Kansas City and San Jose who, in the late 1980s, started to both write and lecture about the need for substantive changes in law enforcement practices (and that the law enforcement community and establishment inherently should SUPPORT drug law policy reform, not reflexively oppose it).

Joe is often credited with being the ‘father of community policing’.

When I first arrived at NORML in 1991, I devoured everything Joe wrote about the drug war. His efforts are clearly the sui generis of one of the most important drug policy reform organizations today—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

His arguments were so persuasive and fact driven (he was as highly educated as he was a decorated police officer) that, in time, I came to see him as the proxy editorial voice for ‘legalization’ at a hugely important and politically influential newspaper—the Wall Street Journal. He spoke to the concerns the editorial board is unfortunately still to date too timid to publicly express under their own byline. His affiliation with the Hoover Institution at Stanford only enhanced his credibility in the eyes of WSJ editors.

Joe was able to breakthrough with ‘conservatives’ on the need to end cannabis prohibition like few others have (i.e., William F. Buckley).

It was in reading the WSJ last week that I learned of Joe’s passing…

Joe gave great, revealing, informed and prescient lectures at NORML, Drug Policy Foundation/Drug Policy Alliance, Cato Institute and other public policy conferences and seminars. I personally enjoyed conversing with him whenever, about whatever. He had much to share.

Passing at the age of 79, Joe lived what can readily be described as a full life, and that his intelligent and law enforcement reform advocacy, driven by decades of tough and challenging field police work, will live long after his days among us.

Joe McNamara RIP!

10 thoughts

  1. “Joe was able to breakthrough with ‘conservatives’ on the need to end cannabis prohibition like few others have.”

    RIP, Joe. You’ll be missed.

  2. Thank God Joe was able to see Colorado and Washington legalize and to read the first reports of crime reduction in Colorado. He reminds me every time I see problems and disconnects between law enforcement and disproportionately incarcerated and terrorized minority communities that there is hope that not only may this great man rest in peace, but leave us a legacy of lasting peace here on earth by ending prohibition; By ending the quota and punishment based prison lobbies or asset forfeitures from non-violent marijuana consumers and replace them with a legally regulated rewards-based drug policy… A policy where law enforcement prioritizes real crimes like rapes and murders and law enforcement officers are allowed to partake of non violent marijuana themselves as a reward for seeking out more violent criminals.
    Rest in Peace, Joe; We will make sure of it.

  3. RIP Mr. McNamara, along with Arnold Trebach,Peter McWilliams and all the other martyrs who wanted to help people who can benefit by reforming drug laws and legalizing cannabis!

  4. How refreshing–a cop who actually employed reasoning.

    It brings to mind something I’d heard: four other former police chiefs telling Larry King on his televised show that they preferred dealing with stoners far more than drunks–or something to that effect. (I’m sure I have the particulars totally wrong.)

  5. RIP Mr. McNamara, your efforts were not in vain. Respect is a two way effort, earned by all parties…left behind for greed and control.

  6. @Evening Bud

    Watch an afternoon of a ‘Cops’ marathon. You’ll see why the cops prefer to deal with stoners than drunks.

  7. Definitely shows the impact one men can have. We will miss him, but live in a better world because of him. That’s a lot better legacy than most people.

  8. I like to be fair about things and while weed is illegal for adult people for now at least, I feel we should make catnip illegal for cats. For the sole reason that it MAKES them feel good. Which we all know could lead to HORRIBLE RESULTS!! 🙂 Look, I am a schizophrenic and NEED weed. I’m not asking you I’m telling you. No one’s calling for Crystal Meth to be legal. Didn’t see my comment is under moderation

  9. these days i see more problems than people using pot. i look at any grey haired politician that’s opposed to legalization is just a legal drug dealer

Leave a Reply