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California Law Enforcement is Addicted To The War On Drugs

California cops are fighting legalization to keep funds.

by Justin O'Connell

This November, Californians will vote on a ballot measure that could legalize weed recreationally. While there has been an outpour of support for this measure, some of the groups donating money to fight the legalization effort include police and other law enforcement agencies. 

One such group, known as the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies raised $60,000 in the first three months of this year with the aim to stop legalization.

For many law enforcement agencies, the money obtained via arrests and fines fund their very existence.

Many reports have uncovered how asset-seizure and government grants for certain enforcement finance law enforcement. From 2002 to 2012, California took in $181.4 million from marijuana related asset seizures. Mendocino's enforcement program netted them $7.5 million last year alone. In Placer County, which is under pressure to ban all indoor and outdoor grows, county staff are eager to implement fair regulations on marijuana, but law enforcement is pushing back with Reefer Madness style arguments.

The California Police Chiefs Association, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Issues PAC, and the California Correctional Supervisors Organization are among those organizations which have contributed to the efforts.

"Law enforcement in some of the most prohibitive counties are addicted to the revenue they collect from it. They believe marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drug addiction. I believe money is their gateway drug to stricter and stricter ordinances. Jacqueline McGowan, Executive Director of Central Valley NORML, told MERRY JANE

“Marijuana prohibition is like welfare to some law enforcement agencies and it's time we take that free check away." Not all members of law enforcement have sought to undermine the democratic process.

McGowan works closely with the Yolo County Sheriff, Ed Prieto, who has “been wonderful to work with. He wants to help the true medical market. He’s just not a fan of the recreational market...He’s awesome.”

She elaborates: “The foundation of this great relationship began when I met with him and I said, ‘I wanted to come to you, human to human.’ And he said ‘thank you for putting me in that category.’


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Justin is a California-based writer who covers music, cannabis, craft beer, Baja California, science and technology. His writing has appeared in VICE and the San Diego Reader.



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