As Cannabis Initiative Heads for Ballot, Former Police Chief Advocates Legalizing All Drugs

Now that enough signatures have been gathered to get a cannabis legalization initiative on California's November ballot, Seattle's former police chief is asking, "Why stop there?"

Norm Stamper, a 34-year police veteran who was Seattle's chief from 1994-2000, the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing and a Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member, lays out his case in an AlterNet post titled "Let's Not Stop at Legalizing Marijuana.

He cites polls that show a majority of Americans understand that legalizing marijuana will produce many benefits, including the following after the jump . . .

  • No longer will 800,000 people a year be arrested on pot charges, their lives damaged if not ruined;
  • Governments will be able to tax the popular commodity;
  • Regulation and revenues will help forge and finance effective programs of drug abuse prevention and treatment;
  • Vicious cartels will lose as much as half their illicit profits when they can no longer sell marijuana;
  • Once people get used to the idea of allowing legal sales of the previously banned weed we'll be able to point to successful regulation as a model for similar treatment of all other currently illicit substances.
  • But in the same polls, only one in 10 of those backing cannabis legalization want prohibitions lifted on other drugs.

"This no doubt makes sense to some readers at first glance, since more people are familiar with marijuana than other drugs like cocaine, heroin or meth," Stamper writes. "However, even a cursory study of our drug war policies will reveal that legalizing pot but not other drugs will leave huge social harms unresolved."

Legalizing marijuana, Stamper contends, will not:

  • Stop gangs from selling other drugs to our kids (since illegal drug dealers rarely check for ID);
  • Stop drug dealers from brutally murdering rival traffickers for the purpose of controlling the remaining criminal market for other drugs;
  • Stop drug dealers from firing on cops charged with fighting the senseless war on other illicit drugs;
  • Stop drug dealers from killing kids caught in crossfire and drive-by shootings;
  • Stop overdose deaths of drug users who refrain from calling 9-1-1 out of fear of legal repercussions;
  • Reduce the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS and hepatitis, since marijuana users don't inject their drug like heroin users (who sometimes share dirty needles and syringes because prohibition makes it hard to secure clean ones);
  • Stop the bloody cartel battles in Mexico that are rapidly expanding over the border into the U.S.
  • Stop the Taliban from raking in massive profits from illegal opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

"Marijuana legalization is a great step in the direction of sane and sensible drug policy," Stamper concludes. "But we reformers must remember that we're working to legalize drugs not because we think they are safe, but because prohibition is far more dangerous to users and nonusers alike."


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