Pubdate: Thu, 30 Oct 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


Despite years of advocating for marijuana legalization across the 
country, there's one thing former Seattle Chief of Police Norm 
Stamper hasn't done. The 34-year law enforcement veteran has never 
gone door-knocking for a political campaign.

"I'm a little scared," he joked Tuesday, moments before he and a 
handful of other proponents of Ballot Measure 2, an initiative 
seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska, headed out to 
canvass Alaskans in Anchorage's Inlet View neighborhood.

Knocking on doors throughout the neighborhood bordering scenic 
Westchester Lagoon and downtown Anchorage was the last stop for 
Stamper, who spent several days making the rounds in Anchorage, 
visiting with media and appearing on a variety of call-in talk shows. 
The shows ranged from serious talk radio with conservative host 
Michael Dukes on KBYR to shows geared toward a younger crowd, 
including rock station KWHL's "Bob and Mark Show" and KFAT's "Morning Chaos."

Stamper's appearances are an attempt to counter points made by 
opponents of the ballot initiative regarding law enforcement. 
Stamper, who served as Seattle police chief from 1994 to 2000, is an 
advocate for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a national 
nonprofit organization consisting of current and former law 
enforcement officials challenging what they call the "failures" of 
American drug policy.

Early in the year, the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police came 
out against the Alaska measure. Last month, a group of 10 chiefs of 
police, from communities all across Alaska -- including Valdez, 
Unalaska and Anchorage -- reiterated their opposition to Ballot 
Measure 2. Their concerns stem from enforcement at the federal level, 
where it remains strictly illegal, as well as issues with staffing, 
training and enforcement associated with legalization.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska has fought 
to challenge those claims, arguing that regulating marijuana will 
give police more time to focus on policing serious violent crime. 
Stamper said in an interview Tuesday his advocacy for the issue comes 
from his disappointment in watching adults criminalized for engaging 
in "adult behavior, making adult choices, but who happen to be in 
violation of the law."

He said it was "tragic" to criminalize behavior he believes to be 
safer than alcohol and "ruin" lives through arrests.

"What do we have to show for it?" Stamper asked. "Marijuana is as 
accessible today as it's ever been."

'Ticklish' subject

Over the course of an hour, Stamper and Ballot Measure 2 co-sponsor 
Bill Parker knocked on about a dozen doors in the neighborhood. 
Reactions appeared mixed, with some in favor and others undecided but 
leaning one way or the other.

When Parker and Stamper approached the door of Bud Brown and asked 
him if he had decided how he was going to vote on marijuana 
legalization, Brown called the issue "ticklish."

Brown said he was "on the fence" about the issue, but leaning toward voting no.

Parker asked Brown if he knew much about marijuana, and Brown told 
him no. When Parker asked again if he "knew it was everywhere," Brown 
admitted that he did.

Parker said later that sort of reaction was common. He called it a 
lingering effect of the "war on marijuana."

"They think it's not something to talk about -- the 'ticklish' part," 
Parker said. "They say 'I know it's there, but I don't want to talk about it.'"

A few said they'd be supporting the measure, including one man who 
appeared to be in his mid-60s who told Stamper and Parker he'd been 
smoking marijuana for more than 40 years.

He was happy to talk about the measure with a reporter, but only anonymously.

"Caution is the name of the game," he said.

Stamper said that same kind of attitude is something he sees among 
law enforcement. In his years of fighting marijuana prohibition he 
said he's heard a lot of chiefs "whisper their support," but who are 
hesitant to advocate for legalization.

He believes there are two reasons for that. The first is that law 
enforcement wants to have a "united front," something that he 
believes is associated with years of growing up and working with 
marijuana laws in place.

"It's part of their identity," he said.

The other is that marijuana can often give police leverage to 
investigate other crimes.

"It becomes a bridge to other enforcement," he said. "It becomes a tool."

Alaska critics

Kalie Klaysmat, executive director of the Alaska Association of 
Chiefs of Police, expressed frustration over Stamper's visit. She 
said his experiences out of state made him ill-suited to comment on 
Alaska's legalization question. She also brought up concerns over 
Stamper's employment in Seattle, as well as other views he had in 
decriminalizing other drugs.

"It doesn't seem right that people from out of state, who would be 
considered carpetbaggers, with no experience enforcing laws in 
Alaska, are saying (marijuana legalization) is a good thing," she said Tuesday.

Both the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police and the Alaska Peace 
Officers Association have publicly opposed Ballot Measure 2. Klaysmat 
said other officers would like to speak out against the measure, but 
most are prevented from comment due to "jurisdictional codes 
requiring them to stand silent on controversial issues."

Klaysmat noted the two police organizations represent more than 1,000 
current and retired Alaska law enforcement officers. She said in an 
email that her organization is speaking loudly against Ballot Measure 
2 in an effort to represent other officers whose voices are 
prohibited from being heard. Earlier this year, the organization 
polled local law enforcement to understand the potential for 
increased costs and found that costs to local jurisdictions for 
training, among other things, could run $6 million in the first year 
of legalization.

"We just don't know where these LEAP people are coming from," she 
said. "I have heard nothing good from law enforcement if legalization passes."

Stamper responded to the criticism by saying that as an American, he 
felt it is his "civic responsibility to share the research, to the 
share the evidence and to let my brothers and sisters in law 
enforcement understand this will benefit policing, especially over time."

"They don't like (marijuana laws), but they understand they're under 
a fairly sizeable peer pressure to toe the line," Stamper said. "I've 
chosen not to toe the line because that's just who I am as a person."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom