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Cal. Cops Continue to Kill Reform

If police are acting like this now, just imagine the tactics they’ll employ once California legalizes marijuana completely.

Voters in the Golden State approved medical marijuana 18 years ago when they passed Proposition 215, but don’t tell that to most police officers. As far as they’re concerned, no such law has ever existed.

cop marijuana patientThat’s why the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, one of the largest and most powerful police groups in the state, declares in training material for officers that “this ‘medical marijuana thing’” is “an epidemic that is infecting our society.”

If that sounds extreme, it’s just par for the course in California. As far as most drug cops are concerned, all dispensaries are illegal fronts for a drug that should always be considered illegal.

It’s for this reason that reformers find it impossible to fix the problem police complain about the most: not enough regulation of the industry. Ironically, cops say they want regulation, then use their lobbying power to stop any legislation that tries to enact it.

Why? Because doing so would give a stamp of legitimacy to medical pot, something police organizations will most likely never do. Their ultimate goal is to kill the voter-approved MMJ law, whatever it takes, and put every dispensary owner and employee in prison.

The California Police Chief’s Association wrote a “white paper” portraying dispensaries as “a cover for selling an illegal substance.” Lawmakers and local officials repeatedly use it to justify quasi-legal crackdowns and votes against reform legislation.

“Most police chiefs in California understand the voters’ intent with Proposition 215, but what has actually happened in California is fraudulent,” said Covina Police Chief Kim Raney. “In no place that I’ve read in the law does it authorize or legitimize dispensaries that morphed into over-the-counter retail outlets.”

Raney apparently hasn’t read Senate Bill 420, signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. The law, designed to bring clarity to the medical cannabis system, provided, among other things, that collectives could not be criminally punished for growing marijuana as a group. That’s effectively what dispensaries are.

But follow Raney’s logic and every pot shop in California is selling in volume to teenagers walking in off the street. What’s even worse, if you follow the logic further, Raney and other cops want to let that continue in the hopes it will ultimately shame everyone into banning pot forever.

Good luck with that.

The real question, though, is what will happen to these pit bulls when California legalizes. That will almost certainly happen, either this year or in 2016. Polls show widespread support for legal weed, and voters have already had a front-row view to years of “unregulated” medical marijuana.marijuana leaf

There’s evidence already legalization will hit narcs especially hard. Drug cops derive much of their budgets from property seizures in drug cases, especially marijuana busts. In Washington, according to The Wall Street Journal, some police drug task forces have lost 15 percent of their funding because there are no more cannabis crimes to pursue. Between 2002 and 2012, California raised $181.4 million in revenue by seizing property in marijuana cases.

One thing is certain: Cops will fight legalization with everything they’ve got. And they’ll take it very, very personally. As Matt Kumin, a San Francisco attorney who works MMJ cases, put it, police see everyone in the marijuana industry as a criminal.

To police, weed is evil, and “people who were their enemies are going to be part of the community,” Kumin said.

Raney, like many cops, refuses even to discuss the issue with marijuana proponents.

“I have not found those people credible to sit and talk with,” he said.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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