Pubdate: Tue, 14 Sep 2010
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Timm Herdt
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


A former long-time police chief of California's third-largest city 
said Monday that state voters will have the opportunity "to strike 
more of a blow than law enforcement ever could against drug cartels" 
by approving Proposition 19, the measure that would legalize the 
possession and regulated sales of marijuana.

Joseph McNamara, who headed the San Jose Police Department for 15 
years, called the ballot measure a potential "game-changer" that 
would allow police agencies to devote more resources to fighting 
other crimes and undercut criminal syndicates that are largely funded 
by illegal marijuana sales.

"Opponents say we should do more of the same of what has not worked 
for more than a century," McNamara said in phone call with reporters. 
"I think we should return some common sense to law enforcement by 
protecting people from crimes they are concerned about. People are 
not terrified by pot smokers."

All of the state's major law enforcement organizations, including the 
associations representing sheriffs, police chiefs and district 
attorneys, are opposed to Proposition 19, which is on the Nov. 2 ballot.

In an attempt to counter that solid bloc of mainstream law 
enforcement opposition, proponents on Monday put on a statewide blitz 
to highlight their own coalition of retired law enforcement officials 
who support the measure. They staged news conferences in Los Angeles 
and Oakland and conducted a conference call for reporters statewide.

The campaign released an open letter to voters signed by 31 retired 
police officers, prosecutors and judges urging support for the measure.

McNamara said retired public safety officials are leading the 
campaign because there are "ethical and legal reasons that restrict 
the ability of police chiefs and officers to speak out" in support of 
legalization of marijuana.

Pleasant Hill Police Chief Jerry Dunbar, who has taken a lead role in 
the No on 19 campaign, disputed that assertion.

"We're obligated to say what we believe is best for our communities," 
Dunbar said of the police chiefs who have aligned against the measure.

Dunbar acknowledged there are "political realities" that police 
chiefs must consider, but said active chiefs could and should speak 
out if they thought Proposition 19 was a good idea.

McNamara, now a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford 
University, and retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray 
have emerged as leading spokesmen for the Proposition 19 campaign, 
and were selected to sign the ballot arguments printed in the 
official ballot pamphlet mailed to California voters.

They argue that attempts to combat drug usage by arrest and 
prosecution have failed, and continuing the same policy wastes police 
resources, encourages disrespect for the law among legions of 
marijuana smokers and allows gangs and crime syndicates to thrive by 
fostering a profitable black market for the drug.

Proposition 19 campaign spokeswoman Dale Jones said the evidence of 
that can be found by comparing California's wine industry with its 
illicit marijuana industry. "You don't see illegal grape-growing 
cartels growing grapes in our national forests," she said.

Gray asserted current laws actually drive up marijuana use among 
teenagers because they foster an illegal distribution system that 
relies in large part on teens to sell the contraband. When adult drug 
dealers use 15-year-old to conduct sales, Gray said, the natural 
consequence is they target other teenagers as customers.

Gray called the campaign for Proposition 19, "Probably the most 
important election of my lifetime."

Proposition 19 would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of 
marijuana for all Californians 21 and older. It would allow each city 
to decide whether to allow sales in its community and, if so, give 
local governments the authority to determine where and under what 
conditions sales could take place. Local governments would also have 
the authority to levy taxes on sales within their jurisdictions. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake