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Police Group Pushes Back Against Marijuana Legalization

For every party, there is a pooper. In California, that would be the Public Safety Institute, a law enforcement lobbying group and a staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana.

California-marijuanaLegalization is a good bet to appear on the statewide ballot in November. And 60 percent of California voters support the idea, according to a recent poll. But not everyone is willing to go along.

The institute has raised about $15,000 to fund an anti-cannabis campaign during this year’s election season. The money came from other police groups across the state.

That includes the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which gave $5,000; the California Correctional Supervisors Organizations, which represents prison guards and also gave $5,000; and the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, which gave the same amount.

“We just don’t think it would be a good thing to legalize marijuana for recreational use,” said George Hofstetter, president of the L.A. Sheriffs’ association.

Campaign funding dwarfed by Sean Parker’s legalization drive

Sean ParkerBut the institute faces an uphill climb: Legalization proponents have already raised more than $2 million in large donations, mostly from former Facebook president Sean Parker. That amount dwarfs the institute’s $15,000 haul.

And much more money is expected to pour into Parker’s group, which is pushing the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The public initiative would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivation of up to six plants at home. It would also allow the state to regulate a recreational cannabis industry. And the broad public support makes it likely the question would pass if it appears on the ballot.

“I fully expect the other side to outspend us, but we will have enough money for a campaign, and I think we will be successful,” said John Lovell, who lobbies for the California Public Safety Institute.

Police oppose legalization for the wrong reasons

As a general rule, police oppose legalization for selfish reasons. Marijuana busts bring in massive amounts of seized money, most of which pays for police salaries, firearms, vehicles, and tactical gear, among other high-cost items.

Even so, there are plenty of cops who support legalization. Among other benefits, it allows officers to focus on real crime and put their limited resources to better use than busting cannabis users. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) has more than 160,000 members who work for law enforcement. LEAP supports legal marijuana in California.

“I think if we could take one drug — and marijuana is good because it’s so prevalent — and change the policy to legalize it, regulate and control it, people will see a number of things,” said Neil Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics officer. “Number one, they see, wow, the sky didn’t fall.”

A poll conducted in February by Probolsky Research found nearly 60 percent of California voters want to legalize. It was the highest number of any poll to ask that question.

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