Reefer Madness and Common Sense

In a recent Op-ed piece, Tom Ward, the editor of the Valley Breeze (a local Rhode Island newspaper focused on the Blackstone Valley area) bemoaned the difficulty of police departments in dealing with the issue of marijuana.  He described the disadvantage local and state police find themselves in light of the “secret” locations of legal marijuana growing operations for medical marijuana.

The article quoted Major Kevin O’Brien of the Rhode Island State Police “The secret locations are kept even from the local police and the Rhode Island State Police.  We don’t have the ability to provide the local PDs with the information because we don’t know it either.”  The Major goes on to detail a recent situation where the State Police invested time and resources investigating what turned out to be a legal grow operation. “We wasted our time and we wasted their time.” The Major said.

I did some quick research, just online, and was able to learn a great deal about local licensee operations.  It took a little imagination and the information was available.  I agree with the Major, require licensed location information be made available to the police as part of the provisions of the statute.  If for no other reasons than to prevent such wasted efforts.

Perhaps it is time we put the cost of enforcing laws prohibiting marijuana in perspective.

Enforcement: Depending on which source you use as reference, FBI, National Institute of Health, and a variety of others, the annual cost of enforcement and incarceration runs between $7 billion and $42 Billion Dollars.

I can think of many more beneficial uses of that money.

Gateway Drug: The fear of marijuana as a gateway drug is a long accepted, and incorrect, theory.  In Social sciences, it is referred to as “the fallacy of affirming the consequent.”

In other words a correlation, using marijuana and subsequent use of harder drugs, is not a proof of cause.

The latest accepted scientific analysis shows 79% of people that use marijuana never use other drugs ( and others).  That still leaves 21% at risk you say. This not the percentage that ultimately suffers from addiction or other consequences, it is much lower.

This is, and has always been, a health issue. We demonized it into a crime, and spent billions trying to arrest our way to a solution. It failed.

The ultimate point here is simple.  There is an overwhelming amount of hard evidence that the relative risk of marijuana use, compared to other similar activities, is low.

Not that I am endorsing this, but studies show driving under the influence of marijuana one is twice as likely to be involved in an accident, as opposed to 20 times under the influence of alcohol.

It would be interesting to see the statistics regarding driving while texting!  Now there is an enforcement effort I would applaud.

History shows us that we cannot arrest our way out of this. Turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals does nothing to solve the problem, it just creates more.

I am not suggesting that State and Local police be the arbiters deciding which laws to enforce.

That is reserved to the legislature and those we elect to those positions.

However, I am suggesting that, confronted with a choice to allocate investigative resources towards marijuana growing or distribution operations or to put those valuable resources towards curbing more obviously dangerous activities, shootings, gang violence, etc. we would be better served by common sense approach.

I speak with some experience in this matter.  I spent 20 years as a police officer, much of that time in narcotics working with other Local, State, and Federal Agencies.  I can honestly say that in all those instances involving marijuana cases, violence was rare.

It is time to look at the available evidence and reallocate those police resources towards efforts that genuinely improve the quality of life.

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