Police officers are among the last people typically expected to be in the camp supporting legalized cannabis. At every turn, police unions and departments consistently fight against progressive cannabis-freedom laws, using archaic and misinformed arguments to stoke needless fear. The same or worse goes for federal drug agents, prison guard unions, prosecutors, and judges.
However, there are voices from the law enforcement sector that support cannabis freedom—loudly. Members of nonprofit groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition are among those who wear the badge, serve our communities throughout the country, and bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies. Why do they believe current laws must be replaced with pragmatic approaches to providing safe, legal access to cannabis?
Prohibition is far more harmful to society than cannabis
Due to the current illegal status of cannabis at the federal level, a majority of consumers in the United States are forced to obtain it through the black market. This criminal enterprise exists solely due to the prohibitive nature of federal and state cannabis laws. Telling people they can’t have something they want is a surefire way to ensure that they will try to get it by any means possible—while deeply resenting those who stand in their way.
Allowing criminal elements to control production and distribution of cannabis is not only dangerous, immoral, and economically shortsighted; it also demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of, or interest in, our nation’s previous experiment with Prohibition. (It was horrifically disastrous, if anyone needed a quick update.)
Much like our nation’s approach to alcohol in the 1920s, the prohibition of cannabis has led to a massive upswing in violence stemming from organized crime, especially in our neighboring country of Mexico. As long as the prohibition exists, organized crime will continue to have an unending revenue stream that allows the continuation of its violent, destructive business. Alternatively, cannabis legalization would drain away cash from Mexican cartels, money they use to buy guns, bribe police, and pay assassins.
Additionally, ending the prohibition on cannabis would lead to regulations preventing minors from accessing cannabis (drug dealers don’t check ID), a significant increase in tax revenue, and an imperative change in how we treat those who choose to consume cannabis recreationally and/or medicinally.
Prisons packed with non-violent “drug offenders”
Shockingly, in America no behavior results in more arrests than possession of cannabis. As a result, our grossly overburdened prison system is filled with a shameful number of non-violent citizens who are serving time solely for cannabis-related charges. In fact, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 16,000 people are currently serving time in prison for simply possessing a plant recommended by doctors as a safe, non-toxic method to treat certain medical conditions. How is this even possible?
In 2014 alone, 700,993 arrests were made for cannabis law violations. Of that number, 619,809 were possession charges (88 percent). And, it’s impossible to ignore the racial bias found in that arrest data. Compared to white Americans, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis—despite white people using cannabis at a higher rate than the black population.
Further, consider how much of the police’s resources, including time, are expended in achieving those arrest numbers. Those resources could be wisely redirected toward policing the far more serious, violent crimes that law enforcement professionals would rather focus on eradicating from society. It’s no wonder so many law enforcement professionals agree that drug use, and even abuse, should no longer be addressed by the criminal justice system: Drug abuse is a public health issue, not one of people causing harm to others or their property.
Not only have our nation’s drug laws destroyed the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people; prohibition also simply doesn’t work. There is no evidence that the rate or the socio-economic or public health impact of drug use has declined since the War on Drugs began in the 1970s. Yet, our country continues to waste billions of dollars annually in the vain attempt to enforce nonsensical, ineffective, and draconian cannabis laws.
Prohibition: an enormously expensive mistake—again
According to a CATO Institute report, the U.S. government squanders an incredible $8.7 billion each year in a futile effort to continue their persecution of cannabis consumers. The Drug War Clock at DrugSense.org has an even scarier number for the overall War on Drugs: over $34 billion of federal and state expenditures in 2016—with two months left to go! Since the 1970s, the amount of tax money wasted on the pointless exercise has reached over $1 TRILLION. To put that amount in perspective, it could have built 25,000 new schools, 5,000 new hospitals, and assisted countless people with healthcare and education costs.
Now that states such as Colorado have legalized cannabis, we can see how much tax revenue is on the table. It’s a lot. In the most recent fiscal year, the Centennial State has generated $70 million in taxes from its legal cannabis industry. This is additionally bolstered by the money saved by no longer wasting it on cannabis deprivation.
The really pertinent questions are: Should profits from the production and sale of cannabis go to criminal organizations, or should the herb instead be legalized and taxed, allowing all citizens to benefit from the enormous windfall that is the cannabis market? Should we turn a blind eye to the rampant destructiveness and failures within the criminal justice system’s approach to cannabis, or should we recognize that responsibly consuming the herb is a personal choice that no government has any legitimate right to punish its citizens for?
The answer is a no-brainer (perfectly appropriate for prohibitionists and cannaphobic bureaucrats). To thousands of law enforcement professionals throughout the country, that answer been abundantly clear for a long time—and it’s only getting clearer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Garyn Angel is an inventor, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, maker of the botanical extractor he invented for infusing cannabis into foods. Firmly committed to needed legal reform, Angel was named to the exclusive CNBC NEXT List of visionary global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees”—mainly veterans and children—who need herbal therapy when traditional treatment options have failed.