Oakland Tribune: Tammerlin Drummond: Recent violence doesn't help pot legalization efforts
Drummond: Recent violence doesn't help pot legalization efforts
By Tammerlin Drummond
Oakland Tribune Columnist
Posted: 06/15/2010 05:24:17 PM PDT
Updated: 06/15/2010 09:37:39 PM PDT
The argument for legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use goes something like this: Marijuana isn't bad for you.
In fact, it has proved medicinal benefits for those suffering from cancer and other illnesses. Even if you are not sick, a good toke never hurt anybody.
Licenses selling for "medicinal" purposes is practically pot legalization anyway, since pretty much anyone with a pulse can get a prescription.
The pro-legalization forces argue that marijuana prohibition, just like alcohol prohibition, has been a huge failure. The threat of jail and fines has not stamped out use of the drug. Instead, hundreds of thousands are arrested every year on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges — which clogs jails and costs a fortune.
Major drug traffickers use the billions in proceeds from marijuana sales to fund violent criminal enterprises.
If marijuana were made legal for recreational use — as is proposed under the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which will go before voters in November — California could reverse what has become a losing equation.
Our cash-starved state could rake in money by taxing a most profitable cash crop. With property tax revenues heading ever further south, the millions generated by pot taxes would be like manna from heaven. No more pink slips for teachers. Or threats of police firings. No more layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs.
Police would be free to spend their time protecting society from dangerous felons and other serious lawbreakers.
Those in favor also contend that if you remove the black market by making pot consumption legal — much of the marijuana-related crime would automatically go down.
That is where I have to respectfully disagree.
Money is legal, but criminals still rob banks to get it.
The more marijuana there is out there being grown, the more of it there will be to be stolen.
Criminals gravitate to wherever there is anything of value they can steal.
Marijuana may be fairly benign when used in small doses by adults who are just planning to chill and not get behind the wheel of a car.
The rash of violence associated with residential marijuana growing operations, clinics and dispensaries is not.
It has not been occurring only in California.
Patients, growers and clinics in some of the other 14 states that allow medical marijuana have been attacked by robbers.
Earlier this month, a 15-year-old by from Oakland was shot and killed when he and two others attempted to rob an Antioch couple of the marijuana they were cultivating in their home.
According to police, the teen and two others broke into the house through a rear window about 4:30 a.m. They immediately were confronted by the man and woman who lived there.
There was shooting.
When it was over, the 15-year-old was dead, and the man and woman were wounded.
It's unclear whether the residents had the required license to grow the marijuana legally.
Police in Antioch say that violence associated with marijuana grows has been on the increase.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, medicinal marijuana clubs have been robbed. Pot growers have been assaulted.
In May, two men tied up, beat and shot a grower in Oakland. They had first broken into his apartment and tried to get him to fork over the key to a large cultivation operation in East Oakland.
In October, a 43-year-old man was shot four times as he guarded a friend's medicinal marijuana crop in North Oakland.
Six people were arrested recently for breaking into a condo in Oakland because they thought — incorrectly, it turned out — that pot was being grown there.
El Cerrito police Chief Scott Kirkland has been a vocal critic of legalization.
He says that whenever you have drugs or money, you have crime. He argues that you are crazy if you think decriminalization is going to make the Asian gangs and Mexican cartels walk away.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, both oppose legalization.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo, meanwhile, calls legalization a "smart "... law-and-order initiative."
We will see what voters have to say in November.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for Bay Area News Group. Contact her at tdrummond@... or at Twitter/tammerlin.
Don't forget to join my Medical Marijuana News From Brett Yahoo newsgroup for the latest marijuana and medical marijuana news http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mmjnews/
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