Pubdate: Tue, 26 Nov 2013
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2013 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Neill Franklin


I was disappointed to see your informed and eloquent indictment of 
state and federal marijuana laws lead to the conclusion that Maryland 
should wait before legalizing the drug ("One step at a time on 
marijuana," Nov. 20).

When a drug policy becomes far worse than use of the drug could ever 
be, there is only one option: End the policy. The time for legalization is now.

By every measure, the prohibition of marijuana has failed since it 
was instituted. It hasn't reduced use of the drug, it hasn't taken 
marijuana out of the hands of kids, it hasn't reduced crime. In fact, 
a Columbia University study shows that teens consistently say 
marijuana is easier to buy than beer.

The laws against marijuana are themselves part of the problem. They 
help fund violent criminal gangs and create conviction records that 
leave low-level, non-violent offenders with few other choices than to 

Nor are the law's effects distributed fairly: Black people are 2.9 
times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white 
people, despite comparable rates of use.

For police, skewed priorities stemming from civil asset forfeiture 
laws and earmarked federal grants mean focusing on marijuana over 
real crime. There were more arrests for possession of marijuana drug 
last year than for all violent crimes combined.

Prohibition forces us to go into neighborhoods where people who 
should look upon law-enforcement as friends and protectors instead 
see police as an invading force.

That loss in community trust means fewer crimes are reported and 
fewer people willing to speak about what they've seen. Together, the 
focus on drug crimes and the reluctance of the public to cooperate 
with police has translated into more violent crimes that go unsolved 
and leave their perpetrators free to strike again.

Decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, which 
The Sun recommends, is a good first step but it does little to 
rectify these issues. Organized crime, rather than state coffers, 
would still make all the money, and use the profits to buy guns and 
finance other criminal activity.

Unregulated, unlicensed dealers would continue to sell to children. 
Those caught selling would continue to be denied employment, student 
loans, housing and other benefits that would enable them to better 
their lives so they wouldn't have to turn to criminal activity.

In short, this policy has never produced any beneficial results for 
society. The Sun says we should wait and see what happens in other 
states that legalize. My response to that is that we already know 
prohibition has had a devastating effect right here in on our own 
community. Why would we continue a policy we know doesn't work?

Too many communities can't afford to wait: They can't wait to de-fund 
criminals, can't wait for police to dedicate more of their limited 
resources toward solving violent crimes, can't wait for racial 
profiling to end.

As a child growing up in Baltimore, I dreamed of being a cop. After I 
grew up and became one, I saw my profession demeaned by the war on 
drugs. I will never stop hoping that one day, little kids will one 
day look upon the profession as I once did. The first step is to 
legalize marijuana.

Neill Franklin, White Hall

The writer was a police officer in Maryland for 34 years and now 
heads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
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