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A Police Chief’s Argument for Legalizing Pot–Could Also Apply to the Question of a Pot Club in Walnut Creek?

August 1, 2010

Stanford University
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A law enforcement official offers his perspective on why California voters need to finally get past the old tired arguments that would makes criminals out of people who smoke pot for fun, relaxation.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t smoke pot, and I don’t know anyone well these days who smokes recreationally. I have no desire to start–unless I’m stricken with an incredibly painful chronic or terminal illness, and cannabis turns out to be the only substance that offers relief. 

My lack of personal enthusiasm for pot not withstanding, I very much agree with Joseph D. McNamara, the former police chief of San Jose and a research fellow at Stanford University‘s Hoover Institute. He says that it is time for California voters to “bring common sense to law enforcement” by legalizing marijuana for adults.

On November 2, California voters have the opportunity to say yes or no to Proposition 19. If approved by voters, Proposition 19 would legalize various marijuana-related activities and allow local governments to regulate these activities and to impose and collected related fees and taxes.

I bring up this issue for Walnut Creek readers in part because our town, like others in our suburban area, has had to deal with the related issue of whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open up within our borders. It seems to me that the reasons some Americans give to stick to their outdated attitudes about wanting pot to stay illegal also guide some city leaders and residents to oppose the idea of a pot club in town. 

Well, here is what McNamara had to say last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle“Like an increasing number of law enforcers, I have learned that most bad things about marijuana–especially the violence made inevitable by an obscenely profitable black market–are caused by the prohibition, not by the plant.” 

He adds that “wrongheaded opponents’ will bring up the same old tired arguments as they try to convince  voters to say no to Proposition 19 which would legalize recreational use of marijuana in California. 

Those tired old arguments include: 

Legalizing marijuana will add one more harmful legal substance to the mix of drugs people–including youths–are abusing. McNamara says: “Marijuana is already in the mix.”  It’s widely available, including to teenagers. Citing government and academic studies, McNamara says more than 80 percent of U.S. teenagers say that marijuana is “easy” or “very easy” to obtain–easier than obtaining age-regulated alcohol.

–Drug gangs will keep selling marijuana even under legalization: To which McNamara says “Silly. Who would buy pot on dangerous streets if they could get it at regulated stores without unsafe impurities? … Legalization would seriously cripple [drug gangs] operations.” He notes that 200,000 people have been killed in drug turf battles in Mexico in the last three years.

Two hundred thousand. 

“Undercutting the cartels is an urgent priority for both Mexicans’ and Americans’ safety,” McNamara says. 

Soccer Mom is the nom de plume of, yes, Martha Ross, editor of Patch. A version of this post appeared on my blog, Crazy in Suburbia where I I publish my personal rants about life in suburbia

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