Dear Southern Sheriffs: It’s time to get out of pot politics

Marijuana in Texas
Photo courtesy of Toke of the Town

Anyone that lived within 100 miles of the Florida state line in 2014 knows what a pivotal roll police unions, most notably the Florida Sheriffs Association, played in the defeat of the ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in the last hours of the campaign.

Poll results in the summer of 2014 predicted a landslide for the pro-pot crowd so the green rush began in earnest before the first ballot was ever cast. So sure were proponents that Measure 2 would pass early in the year that millions of dollars were spent by entrepreneurs in preparation of cashing in on what was to be the second-largest medical marijuana market in the entire country. But along came Sheldon Adelson, his interests in Florida’s casino industry and a bottomless checkbook, which he used to buy the most influential law enforcement organization in the state: the Florida Sheriffs Association. Through the FSA Adelson was able to pump millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat the measure. And despite the fact that 58% of Florida voters cast their ballot in favor of medical marijuana, proponents failed to reach the 60% super majority required for citizens to pass legislation.

In other words, all of the progress made in Florida was undone in just a couple of months by lies, deceit and outright propaganda spread willfully by those that the citizens of Florida have elected to protect them from people that would take advantage of them.

The same thing is about to happen in Texas

Texas marijuana legalization billOur form of “self-governance” was developed with a system of checks-and-balances to ensure that the law was adopted and applied equally. Each state has a legislature that creates and votes on laws, a governor that enacts those laws, law enforcement agents to arrest people for breaking those laws, prosecutors for arguing the guilt of the accused and judges and juries to decide whether or not the law that the legislature crafted has been broken or not.

Where the train leaves the tracks, however, is when one of those separate but equally-important cogs in the system starts trying to drive parts of the machine that it wasn’t designed to worry about. We’ve all heard complaints of “activist judges” who make headlines when they attempt to judge the law and not the accused. The same is true when our law enforcement leaders deviate from their primary duty — arresting people who break the law — and become institutionalized activists against legitimate legislation introduced by elected lawmakers.

Such is the case in Texas, where a decriminalization bill – which would turn possession of less than an ounce of pot into the functional equivalent of a parking ticket, punishable by a fine of no more than $100 – is being introduced in the legislative session that begins Jan. 13. And though there has been no firm commitment on a medical marijuana bill, it is expected that at least one will be introduced. But if the Texas Sheriffs Association has anything to say about it, the possession of marijuana will continue to carry the threat of a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.

“The Sheriff’s Association position is that we are going to oppose any effort to decriminalize marijuana, or legalize medical marijuana or any of the components of marijuana,” Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk told News Radio 1200 WOAI. “Of course, we will vigorously oppose any effort to legalize marijuana.”

What’s the motivation?

Police cash marijuana seizureSince when do our law enforcers get to decide what should and should not be lawful? The job of the police is to enforce the law, not write it. Could it be that law enforcement agencies have a vested interest in maintaining the status-quo? The United States has spent nearly a billion and a half dollars in the last 44 years to prosecute a drug war that has not succeeded in removing a single ounce of drugs from the streets. Is it possible that Sheriffs in Texas and Florida oppose repealing marijuana prohibition because so many agency budgets are dependent on the regular flow of drug seizure cash? Could it be that Texas, Florida and other southern states have bilked millions of dollars from both citizens and passers-through by way of the asset forfeiture system and they are afraid of seeing their budgets shrink when they lose marijuana profits, which are the biggest part of those forfeitures?

It’s time to stand up to the special interests so that people like Jeremy Bourque, a seizure patient from Port Arthur, Texas that was arrested for growing three high-CBD plants, can find relief from their conditions with medical marijuana and stop using pharmaceuticals, which frequently cause more problems than they treat. One day history will show us the folly of arresting sick people because of the medicine they choose, but until then sick people like Jeremy will suffer under the heavy influence wielded by Sheriffs in the South.

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