Pubdate: Sat, 14 Aug 2010
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.


Two police chiefs - former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara and
Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar - faced off over legalizing
marijuana in California in a Thursday webinar hosted by The Chronicle

About 60 individuals joined the online/telephone discussion to listen
and ask questions about the societal consequences if voters pass Prop.
19 on the November ballot. Dana Sherne, an intern at,
moderated the discussion.

McNamara is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Dunbar is a
member of the California Police Chiefs Association. Each chief gave
his views on five questions. Here's a summary:

Q. Will legalizing marijuana increase the number of people using

McNamara: We aren't sure it will. But we know marijuana is making
criminals out of 10 to 30 percent of the population because they use
a substance we don't approve of.

Dunbar: The Rand study says it will increase marijuana users in
California. The proposition doesn't legalize marijuana in California.
It puts the onus on 478 cities and counties to legalize its use. Some
counties and cities won't approve.

Q. Is increasing marijuana use a problem?

McNamara: Even if the proposition increases use, it will reduce the
number of people arrested for marijuana possession.

Dunbar: In my experience, marijuana use leads to violence on the
streets. I don't see that changing.

Q. Will legalization end the black market for pot and the violence it

McNamara: Yes. Alcohol was once under criminal prohibition for 13
years. We don't see the black market for alcohol operating today
because sale and use is regulated. Legalization will take away a
major source of funding for criminals.

Dunbar: There will be a black market for juveniles. I found marijuana
was the deadliest drug because of the violence behind it.

Q. Will legalizing marijuana help address the injustice that, while
studies show more whites use marijuana than other racial groups, more
minorities are arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use?

McNamara: Yes, this will change because it would eliminate marijuana
arrests, which disproportionately involve blacks and Hispanics.

Dunbar: I don't see this as a racial issue. To me, it is a people issue.

Q. If Prop. 19 passes, and less taxpayer money is spent on
cannabis-related arrests, where will those funds go?

McNamara: Law enforcement, court and prison costs would be
diminished. If we lower the crime rate, we can free up resources for
what people really want - focus on property crimes and violence.

Dunbar: For the last several years, marijuana possession has become a
low priority. We still take sales and cultivation seriously. There's
not going to be extra money to do anything.

To listen to the entire discussion, go to 
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