Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why Most Police Forces Support Cannabis Prohibition

I want to share this article from the Wall Street Journal. It is about a county sheriff in California, who explains how he is forced to increase pressure on marijuana offenders for the primary purpose of financial gain for his police force.

Financially strapped police use pot fighting cash

I'm going to post some of the quotes from the article and give my perspective on them.

IGO, Calif.—Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, his budget under pressure in a weak economy, has laid off staff, reduced patrols and even released jail inmates. But there's one mission on which he's spending more than in recent years: pot busts.

The reason is simple: If he steps up his pursuit of marijuana growers, his department is eligible for roughly half a million dollars a year in federal anti-drug funding, helping save some jobs. The majority of the funding would have to be used to fight pot. Marijuana may not be the county's most pressing crime problem, the sheriff says, but "it's where the money is."

Washington has long allocated funds to help localities fight crime, influencing their priorities in the process. Today's local budget squeezes are enhancing this effect, and the result is particularly striking in California, where many residents take a benign view of pot but federal dollars help keep law-enforcement focused on it. 

My concern with this article is this, it is not just a one time thing. This is occurring in counties all across the country. 

I have seen how this money influences a sheriffs department first hand serving on a grand jury a couple of years ago. I ended up seeing a lot of marijuana cases come across the table.  I remember one case that came up, an undercover sheriff busted a couple for an ounce of marijuana, and he really wanted to put the screws to these offenders by also wanting to charge them with intent to distribute. I refused to go along with it and did not raise my hand. Matter of fact another grand jury member also agreed that the charges were a bit harsh and refused to raise his hand as well.

The District Attorney and the undercover sheriff were surprised, and visibly agitated. To reach a compromise they offered to drop the intent to distribute charge if we would vote on the rest of the charges. The rest of the grand jury agreed and it passed. Minus just one vote, mine. I refused to raise my hand on each and every marijuana case that came up.

You see, I managed to get on a grand jury, even though I had gotten busted for possession of marijuana back in 2000. I could not be compelled to help prosecute someone for possessing marijuana. I don't think they realized at first that they had an marijuana activist on their grand jury, but I'm sure they soon figured that out.

During my time on the grand jury, I was given a tour of the county jail by the sheriff. This is when I learned about the financial incentive for marijuana convictions. This sheriff said pretty much the same thing the sheriff in the article said. "Its where the money is" 

The sheriff even encouraged us to go to the next sheriffs auction to raise more money for the sheriffs department. They had a whole bunch of vehicles and boats that had been confiscated in drug raids waiting to be auctioned off.

The pot money is "$340,000 I could use somewhere else in my organization," he says. "That could fund three officers' salaries and benefits, and we could have them out on our streets doing patrol." His overall budget this year is about $35 million. 

A lot of financially strapped counties are not so lucky to have a $35 million dollar budget to get them through the year.

$340,000 a pop is the golden carrot that encourages our police to prosecute citizens for marijuana offenses.

The U.S. Justice Department is spending nearly $3.6 billion this year to augment budgets of state and local law-enforcement agencies. In addition, the federal government last year set aside close to $4 billion of the economic-stimulus package for law-enforcement grants for state and local agencies. The White House also is spending about $239 million this year to fund local drug-trafficking task forces. 

If you follow the money, you'll see its the primary motivation for arresting marijuana offenders. It has nothing to do with justice. It comes down to job security for police departments.

I guarantee you if the police departments did not receive this federal allocation of funds for marijuana offenses, the police would not even bother folks who consumed marijuana. 

So far over a trillion dollars has been spent on the "war on drugs"
After 40 years, $1 trillion, US War on Drugs has failed to meet any of its goals

Check out this link:

States in the Red 

Check out the states on this chart that are in the red. Is it any coincidence that the reddest states have some of the strictest laws against marijuana, or the most arrests? These cash starved states with billion dollar deficits are struggling to make their payrolls, and they are capitalizing on marijuana prohibition by sucking on the governments teat for a federal handout, at the expense of our freedom. 

Let's put this in perspective for a moment.

Recently a family was awoken in the middle of the night by a task force. The task force broke down their door, shot the families dog, scared the children, and arrested the parents for less than an ounce of marijuana. 
It makes me wonder if during alcohol prohibition if the police ever raided a home and shot the families dog, scared the children, and arrested the parents for a 12 pack of beer in the fridge?

If the cops were getting $340,000.00 a year to do it, do you think they would have?

How about this for a perspective.

A crippled guy in a wheel chair gets arrested for smoking medicinal marijuana. He is looking at 6 years in prison if he fails an urinalysis now. 

It don't mean shit to the police that he uses marijuana to alleviate his pain as long as this gives them a credit for their government hand out. I see no honor, no integrity in these kinds of harassing arrests. 

To me the trade off is obvious. I would rather see someone like the guy in the article below receive a better quality of life, than have an extra policeman on the books.

Quadriplegic faces jail time for using medicinal marijuana

Cannabis prohibition should not have to shoulder such a significant amount of a police departments budget. It is only creating distrust, and an us against them mentality. Why? Because of money....

If “cops don’t make laws, they just enforce them”, why are police opposing marijuana legalization?

When I got busted back in 2000 for possession of marijuana, I got a slap on the wrist from the judge. Unfortunately I failed an urinalysis and my probation got extended from 6 months to two years. Then I had to have some strange dude in the bathroom with me, staring at my cock, while I pissed in a cup once a month x24 months. I had to spend a $1,000.00 to get out of jail. $600.00 in drug counseling classes, and $2,000.00 in probation/court costs. 

I was lucky that I was not convicted as a felon, so I can still vote, and I will. It's only going to be for someone who is marijuana friendly and who supports ending cannabis prohibition, or if the petition is finally on the ballot to legalize marijuana. Once I had finally got caught, I quit my street dealing ways to supplement my habit, but I decided then to focus on becoming an activist to end prohibition of marijuana.

I am an optimist though, I still hope that honesty and integrity will win the day. Maybe one day the police will realize that convicting American citizens for this victimless crime is not worth the blood money the government is handing out to them. 
That integrity cannot be bought, that freedom and true justice will prevail. 

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