Recently, the 15,000 member strong National Black Police Association endorsed Proposition 19, the California ballot initiative that proposes to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Neill Franklin, the executive director Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a retired African American police officer with over 30 years of experience in law enforcement appeared on MSNBC to discuss the endorsement.
Franklin summed up the biggest problem with our war on marijuana in one word: “Violence.” Explaining why he and other police offices supports marijuana legalization:
Primarily, violence in this country. The cartels are now in over 200 cities in our country–with that comes violence. We have our neighborhood gangs–with that comes violence. And it is all attributed to prohibition of drugs in this country. And in order to eliminate that violence and harm we have to end our war on drugs.
The money from illegal drugs has been providing a large and dependable financial pipeline to violent criminal organizations including American gangs and international drug cartels. In the last several years, the drug cartels in Mexico have killed over 28,000 people. By legalizing marijuana, it would deprive these criminal enterprises of a huge source of their funding.
Franklin pointed out that roughly three-quarters of all Americans think our current drug policy has failed, and now is the time for a debate about a new direction at both the state and federal level.
The problem with our war on marijuana isn’t limited to violence. It is a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere, and the enforcement of our marijuana laws has always been disproportionately detrimental and unfair to African Americans. As Ron Hampton, the executive director of the National Black Police Association, explained when laying out reasons for their endorsement of Prop 19 (via the LA Times):
“It means that we will be locking up less African American men and women and children who are using drugs,” said Hampton, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer with 25 years experience. “We’ve got more people in prison. We’ve got more young people in prison. Blacks go to jail more than whites for doing the same thing.”
Hampton said that the money being spent on the war on drugs could be better spent on education, housing and creating jobs. “It just seemed like to me that we have been distracted in this whole thing,” he said. “We can take that money, and focus and concentrate on things that really make a difference in our community.”