By Stephen Downing | Retired LAPD Deputy Chief
The War on Drugs is about a lot of things, but only rarely is it really about drugs. Most of it is about money and power.
I am a retired deputy chief of police from the Los Angeles Police Department and a member of the board of directors of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of 50,000 police, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others in 86 countries who work to end the war on drugs launched by President Nixon in 1971.
The war metaphor worked for Richard Nixon that year because nearly everyone found a reason to enlist: parents appalled by their teens’ behavior, conservative politicians pandering to their constituents’ moral resentment, liberal politicians needing a chance to look “tough,” presidents looking for distractions from scandal and – – police starved for revenue.
This year – in this economy – after spending $1.2 trillion dollars on 40 years of failure the administration’s drug warriors received the largest budget in history and they made one major change to address that 40 years of failure. They changed the name. They no longer call it the war on drugs. Everything else remains basically the same.
And in spite of the fact that the sky hasn’t fallen since we legalized medical cannabis in California fifteen years ago, they are spending that new round of money like sharks in a feeding frenzy to attack our medical cannabis patients.
The presidents drug warriors fired a broad range of ugly, hypocritical and ethically twisted legal weapons on the people of California last week.
The IRS denied tax-paying dispensaries standard business expense deductions.
The Department of Treasury has brow beaten banks into closing accounts of medical marijuana collectives.
The ATF has warned firearms dealers not to sell firearms to medical marijuana users.
The DEA blocked a nine-year old petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use, ignoring extensive scientific evidence of its medical efficacy.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has blocked proposed research on medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder for our veterans – –
AND- – in order to once again invade our communities with mass arrests, prosecutions and jailing of our citizens – – they have resorted to their tried and true strategy of the past 40 years and are buying off our local police and sheriff’s departments.
The administration has allocated $72 million dollars to our Chief’s of Police and Sheriff’s in order to divert 192 of our local peace officers from responsible, evidence based police deployments in order to carry out their assault on the sovereignty of the people of California – the very same people – and laws – our chief’s and sheriff’s have sworn an oath to uphold and protect.
This has been going on for 40 years. We have seen Department of Justice and White House grants used time and time again to buy off our public safety resources in order to leverage their political priorities at the expense of our communities.
Using their grant money and the lure of budget dollars though asset seizures they have successfully co-opted our police and sheriff’s departments to support their misguided war on drugs.
Our supervisors, city managers and local city councils have become so addicted to the flow of grants and asset seizure dollars that many now require our chief’s to make this predatory money making requirement a deployment priority over other public safety considerations. A different kind of quota – – but still a quota. An ugly quota. And much more dangerous than the fallout on drug quotas we are seeing today in New York.
Today, I would like to call upon our police chief’s and sheriff’s to OPT OUT of the federal war on drugs. You have no obligation to enforce federal law. You can say NO! Tell them you want no part of this gross violation of California law. Tell them that you want no part of this attack on the sick and infirm who depend upon their legally approved cannabis medicine.
August Vollmer, the police chief whose name is synonymous with the origins of professionalism in American policing would also urge our chief’s and sheriff’s to send that $72 million dollars back.
In his work as president of the International Association of Chief’s of Police (IACP) and the Wickersham Commission Vollmer contributed to the successful campaign that led to the repeal of alcohol Prohibition. He would have done the same with the war on drugs if he were with us in 1971.
Finally, I would also like to call upon the voters of California to support the 2012 initiative: Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. You see, if our chief’s and sheriff’s do not voluntarily Opt Out, and the feds come along with their bribe money after its passed, they will have to say, “NO, we can’t help you, it’s against California law. You’re on your own.”
Regulate Marijuana Like Wine is the only means we left have to oppose the might of the prohibitionists and their federal drug warriors. This press conference won’t do it. Your demonstrations and petitions won’t do it.
Regulate Marijuana Like Wine is our best and only chance to make them realize that we still have a Constitution, that we are still a sovereign State and we still have the right to make our own decisions about the use of cannabis.
So, please, go to the web site, RegulateMarijuanaLikeWine.com and register to help us get this initiative made into law.