Pubdate: Tue, 14 Sep 2010
Source: Baltimore Chronicle (MD)
Copyright: 2010 The Baltimore Chronicle
Author: Kevin Zeese
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)

The Other Dumb War:


Since the founding of the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, 15 
million Americans have been arrested for marijuana.

That is more people than live in California's 25 largest cities 
millions more than live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Illinois.

The DEA has led an aggressive national law enforcement effort that 
results in a marijuana arrest every 38 seconds, propelling the U.S. 
to become the biggest incarcerator on the planet, housing one out of 
four of the world's prisoners.

Despite mass arrests, incarceration and the tearing apart of millions 
of families, the war rages on with no end in sight.

Since the DEA's founding, approximately 90 percent of youth have 
described marijuana as easy to get in annual federal surveys. It is 
easier for young Americans to buy marijuana than it is to buy alcohol 
or prescription drugs which are legally regulated and controlled.

Is there any reason to think that millions more arrests - with costs 
running into the billions - will win the marijuana war?

Last week every former U.S. DEA head came out against Proposition 19 
which would end possession arrests and allow local jurisdictions in 
California to make marijuana legal.

No surprise that drug enforcement bureaucrats want to defend their 
marijuana enforcement budgets. They even oppose medical marijuana for 
people suffering and dying.

But, more important for the voter, this is an opportunity to look at 
the big picture. Voters should ask themselves:

Has the marijuana war, with more than 800,000 arrests each year, worked?

Will more arrests stop marijuana?

If not, isn't it time to consider alternatives that could better 
control marijuana?

Thankfully, the DEA is not the only law enforcement voice. Recently 
the National Black Police Association came out in support of Prop. 
19, following a slew of endorsements from unions, faith leaders and the NAACP.

On Monday, simultaneous press conferences will be held at Oakland 
City Hall and in West Hollywood Park to announce a letter of 
endorsement signed by dozens of law enforcers across California.

Joseph McNamara, former police chief in San Jose, California, and 
Kansas City, Missouri, an active member of Law Enforcement Against 
Prohibition, describes the marijuana laws as much worse than 
ineffective: "they waste valuable police resources and also create a 
lucrative black market that funds cartels and criminal gangs with 
billions of tax-free dollars."

Federal researchers find marijuana to be safer than many legal drugs, 
so why waste precious law enforcement resources on it?

These officers, judges and prosecutors support Proposition 19 because it:

. Stops wasting police on non-violent marijuana offenders and enables 
them to focus on preventing violent crime,

. Cuts off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels,

. Reduces marijuana access to children by instituting strict 
age-limits and public safety controls,

. Protects the lives of police officers now at risk in the "drug war," and

. Restores mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement 
and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws.

These police views are shared by the California Legislative Analyst 
which says Prop 19 would enable California to put the state's police 
priorities where they belong saying it "could result in savings to 
the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana 
offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as 
the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision.

"These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars 
annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that 
jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for 
other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of 
jail space."

According to proponents, Proposition 19 is a cautious reform that 
keeps in mind public safety. It empowers local jurisdictions to 
decide whether to bring adult use of marijuana within the law and how 
to regulate it.

It maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the 
influence, increases the penalty for providing marijuana to a minor, 
expressly prohibits consumption in public, forbids smoking while 
minors are present, and bans possession on school grounds.

In addition to being good policy that sets common sense police 
priorities and regulates marijuana so it is more difficult for 
children to get, it will generate $1.4 billion in tax revenue each 
year, according to California's tax collector, the Board of Equalization.

The opposition by the federal drug enforcement bureaucrats reminds 
California's voters that - despite the drug warriors' best efforts 
over nearly four decades - the marijuana war cannot be won and that 
voters now have an opportunity to do what politicians have refused to 
do: tax and control marijuana. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake