Pubdate: Fri, 06 Nov 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Christopher Ingraham, the Washington Post


DEA Releases Survey of Police Nationwide

WASHINGTON - America's police overwhelmingly do not see marijuana as 
a major threat to their communities, according to results of a survey 
released this week as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's 
"2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary."

The DEA asked a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 
law enforcement agencies what they saw as their biggest drug threats. 
Marijuana came in at the bottom of the list, named by only 6 percent 
of survey respondents.

The share of law enforcement agencies naming weed has been declining 
steadily since the mid-2000s, even as states have moved to legalize 
medical and recreational marijuana during that time period.

By contrast, nearly three quarters of police departments named heroin 
and meth as their top drug threats this year. The perceived threat of 
heroin has more than quadrupled since 2007, according to the survey. 
And after rising sharply from 2007 to 2013, the threat posed by 
prescription painkillers has subsided considerably in the past two years.

More New Mexicans died of drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other 
year on record.

The 536 deaths in 2014 mark a 19 percent increase over 2013, 
following a two-year decline, according to the New Mexico Department 
of Health. Prescription opioids caused 48 percent of the deaths and 
heroin 29 percent.

The national findings indicate a statement by law enforcement of a 
fact that drug policy experts and researchers have known for a long 
time: Compared with other recreational substances, including alcohol, 
marijuana doesn't cause much harm.

It's probably even safer than many people think. And whether you're 
worried about potential harms to individuals or to communities, 
marijuana is very low on the list of recreational substances.

The state and local police also say that marijuana is not a big 
driver of crime. Only 6 percent said that marijuana was the most 
serious driver of violent crime in their communities in 2015, and 5 
percent said it was the biggest contributor to property crime. This 
contradicts arguments made by some high-ranking law enforcement 
officers recently that marijuana is somehow driving an increase in 
murders this year.

Despite the shifts in thinking, arrests for marijuana possession 
continue unabated. Police keep arresting people for marijuana 
possession. This might be a simple question of low-hanging fruit: 
marijuana is by far the most widely used illegal drug, and more users 
means more potential arrestees.

But these arrests have serious consequences for the people caught up 
in them, and they divert police time and resources away from other crimes.

Beyond that, the Department of Justice has continued to aggressively 
prosecute marijuana cases even in places where some use of the plant 
is legal, such as California. This led to a federal judge giving a 
scathing rebuke to the department last month, accusing it of openly 
defying congressional efforts to put an end to these raids.

The DEA also continues to spend millions of dollars on efforts to 
eradicate marijuana plants in the U.S.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom