Ray Strack: Not all officers oppose medical marijuana
Tallahassee Democrat: The Florida Sheriffs Association is putting its credibility at risk in a misguided campaign to stop patients from getting safe, legal medicinal marijuana when their doctors recommend it. On behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of law-enforcement officials who once enforced these laws — and as a former Customs special agent — I want you yo know that many of us in law enforcement support providing compassionate care for people suffering with disease.
With less than three months left before Election Day, the Sheriffs Association is reduced to using “scare tactics” and “fear mongering,” according to the Polk County Sun, whose editors compared a meeting with Association President Sheriff Grady Judd to “1930s-era films such as ‘Reefer Madness.’ ” The sheriffs’ highly organized and apparently well-funded campaign is based on claims that the Tampa Bay Times-Miami Herald “PolitiFact” calls “half true.”
The sheriffs’ most frequently repeated assertion, that medical marijuana will increase criminal activity, directly contradicts years of research in states where medicinal marijuana is allowed. The research proves that there has been no increase in either teen use or crime — and that permitting the use of medical marijuana may actually result in a decrease in traffic fatalities.
As career law-enforcement officers, we believe medical marijuana actually has real potential to improve public safety. This is because it removes a portion of the underground illicit marijuana market from the control of criminals. As we have seen in 23 different states over nearly two decades, it gives sick people a much-needed form of palliative care and pain relief, while at the same time allowing those of us in law enforcement to focus on violent crime. That’s one reason, perhaps, that violent crime is down in those states that already allow medical marijuana.
Both as citizens and as law-enforcement officers, we believe it is a waste of tax dollars and police resources to arrest a suffering patient for possessing medicinal marijuana that his or her doctor believes is necessary.
No one who has a serious medical condition should be forced to become a criminal in order to relieve suffering. If your doctor believes medical marijuana is appropriate for your treatment, you should be able to purchase it just like any other medicine, in a legal marketplace where you can be assured of its safety — and your own. Patients should not have to risk consuming an illegal product that may be tainted with mold or other toxins, nor should their dollars be used to enable and enrich criminal gangs and drug cartels.
For some law-enforcement administrators, opposition to medical marijuana has more to do with protecting their current budgetary allotments than with providing the highest level of public safety. Untold millions are at stake in the operational budgets and staffing levels of sheriffs’ offices and in the civil asset forfeiture enforcement operations that they conduct. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow the sheriffs and other police departments to confiscate and keep people’s property, even without charging any person with a crime — and, yes, even the property of sick people whose doctors would recommend marijuana is subject to seizure.
Florida deserves to know that this group of public administrators has a parochial position in opposition to the will of the public and does not speak for all of us in law enforcement.
We respectfully disagree with the sheriffs on Amendment 2. Like them, we are cops — but we are not physicians, and we don’t feel qualified to stand between you and your doctor. For us, it is as simple as that.
Ray Strack spent 27 years as a U.S. Customs special agent, including five years in charge of all Customs Service interdictions of marijuana and narcotics in waters off the Florida coast near Broward County. He is principal Florida spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a national organization of 150,000 police, judges and other law-enforcement professionals and civilian supporters of drug policy reform (http://www.leap.cc).
Copyright 2014 Tallahassee Democrat