Pubdate: Sun, 08 May 2011
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Swift Communications
Author: Brian Uhler
Note: Brian Uhler is the chief of police for the South Lake Tahoe
Police Department.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


After being asked to write a column for the Tribune, I gave thought 
to the format.

The bureaucrat in me started to think about a formal report to inform 
the readers about the latest police action, community issues, and our 
organization's future plans.

Then I thought readers might like to know about my personal 
experiences as I adjust to living in South Lake Tahoe. Lastly, I 
thought that an interesting format might be to pretend it is like 
writing a letter to a friend - so here goes.

Dear Friend,

Wow, it's been quite a winter.

A few people accused me of bringing the snow with me, but I don't 
profess to have this sort of influence. Since I have experience in 
the snow, near Mammoth, Calif., I was a little too confident in 
thinking my low-slung 4-wheel-drive sports car would be all that was needed.

Ha, I was cured of this delusion when my normal five-minute drive to 
work took more than an hour (in my defense, I had the sense to take a 
shovel with me in the car). Within a week, I bought a Jeep. Along 
with that first snow, my fond teenage memories of shoveling snow with 
nice straight edges and idealistic view that shoveling snow was good 
exercise gave way to the common-sense decision that a nearly 
50-year-old man really, really needs a snow-blower.

You might recall that I started my job as the police chief in South 
Lake Tahoe a bit before Thanksgiving. Taking charge of the department 
during the holiday season gave me a great opportunity to get to know 
people both inside and outside of the organization. During this 
introductory phase, I have really been impressed with the overall 
high quality of people in the organization. Yes, like any 
organization, there are a few problems.

And yes, like most any city, South Lake Tahoe has its share of police problems.

The official "honeymoon" period ended within a week - when I had to 
bring news to the organization that we would not be replacing a 
soon-to-be vacated lieutenant position for budget-cutting reasons.

The honeymoon was officially over after the new year when the police 
department (and all city departments) started a major restructuring 
and strategic planning effort.

A major community issue here in South Lake Tahoe centers on 
marijuana. Its use is prevalent and its visibility in the community 
(along with the smell) seems to harm our quality of life. This said, 
officers here seem genuinely committed to doing their part to enforce 
the law when it is violated but also respect the needs of people who 
possess medical marijuana within the confines of legitimate legal 
protections. My impression is that some community members have 
"stretched" their interpretation of the law beyond what is legal.

The misguided concept of making money from marijuana is core to this 
problem. Simply put, making money by selling marijuana cannot be 
legal under the guise of caring for sick people.

In law enforcement, it is known that California now surpasses Mexico 
in terms of supplying marijuana to the rest of our country.

Unfortunately, I believe that there are some in our community who are 
illegally diverting their "medical" marijuana into the nationwide marketplace.

A popular theme when discussing marijuana is the idea of taxing the 
proceeds. While at one time I shared this view, I have since realized 
that this only legitimizes the concept of using marijuana "commerce" 
as a means to create new government revenue.

Federal law (and California law) does not allow for individual or 
government profiteering. Others, with the "we don't want any part of 
it" approach, must also recognize that as a community, we have a 
responsibility to do what we can to ensure that those who do 
cultivate marijuana do so safely.

This said, I am pleased that our City Council is working toward 
passing an ordinance that supports legitimate medical needs and 
focuses on health and safety issues.

A big part of the ordinance also serves to protect property owners' interests.

Enough about marijuana; there are some exciting things happening here 
in South Lake Tahoe. Hosting the first leg of the upcoming Amgen Tour 
promises to be a great thing for our community.

The city manager and staff have helped make sure that there will be 
tents with music and food along the route.

While we will undoubtedly have people who do not like road closures 
and other inconveniences, volunteers, race officials, and law 
enforcement from three different organizations will try to make this 
a safe experience for all. There are also other efforts under way by 
both city and business groups to provide for more special events to 
occur all year long in an effort to draw in visitors and help our economy.

That's all for now!

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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom