Federal Agents Mad ‘Cause I’m Flagrant

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Diane Goldstein, ‎Executive Board Member – ‎Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), spoke at the October Women Grow event in Los Angeles. The Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA) initiative is eligible for the November 8, 2016 General Election ballot.

California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine all have adult use legalization initiatives on the ballot.

AUMA, also known as Prop. 64, “Legalizes marijuana and hemp under state law.  Designates state agencies to license and regulate marijuana industry. Imposes state excise tax on retail sales of marijuana equal to 15% of sales price, and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation. Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana. Prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana to minors. Authorizes resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.”

Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance said, “Although we have had medical cannabis in California for two decades, tens of thousands of Californians are impacted by marijuana prohibition every year in our state through interactions with the police and the criminal justice system. Most of these interactions are the result of personal possession or cultivation. Prop. 64 makes these activities legal and creates a regulatory system to provide safe access to a tested product.”

From a social policy standpoint, people still go to jail for marijuana. Cops use marijuana odor as an excuse to search people’s cars. Marijuana possession is a catalyst for involvement with the criminal justice system. Currently, cops can decide each time they approach someone because they smell marijuana whether the person merely possesses marijuana or possesses marijuana with intent to sell. Black people are 5x more likely to get a felony – possession with intent to sell – rather than just possession, which is a ticket. That’s for white people.

Marijuana is a tool used by police to search and go after people for other things, to force them to empty their pockets, and show the cops what else is in their pocket. If cops find money in your pocket, they can say you’re selling. Cops love this tool where they can smell weed and ask for someone’s license. Public consumption is a ticket to harass. 

There are systemic racial disparities. Legalizing marijuana will not stop the police from being racist. But Prop 64 gives people, especially people of color, protections. Even if you legalize just 1 gram, the protections you have against being searched because of the odor means that law enforcement can’t get in your car anymore. Once cops lose odor as cause, they lose a huge tool to search people for other things or to ask for their license to run their name through the system.

This seems to be one of the main reasons why LEAP, along with the Drug Policy Alliance, support Prop 64.

Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who served as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department. She is a speaker and Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. In addition she is a guest columnist for many media organizations as well as a frequent commentator on radio and television on drug policy and criminal justice reform.