In a recent interview with Mike Stark, Florida Senator George LeMieux came down squarely against the rights of individual states to regulate marijuana, indicating that he was against both legalizing medical use and ending prohibition in general. He also believes that it’s the appropriate role of the criminal justice system to deal with marijuana users (Youtube above).
“I don’t think we should legalize it, and I think the criminal justice system should have to make sure that you’re treating….you’re also understanding that this is an addiction,” said Lemieux.
Kyle Vogt strongly disagrees with Lemieux’s position. Vogt is a Florida resident and former US Army MP, as well as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The group is part of the Just Say Now campaign, a trans-partisan effort to encourage a national discussion about ending marijuana prohibition.
“As a former military police officer, I take issue with Senator LeMieux’s claim that the criminal justice system has an appropriate role to play in keeping adults from using marijuana” says Vogt, who served in the military police corps as a beat cop, armorer, weapons instructor, combat lifesaver, and body guard. “While working on patrol, I neither saw nor observed how any of the current laws and penalties against marijuana prevented anyone from using it; they just simply punished those who were caught.”
Lemieux supports the DEA’s continued enforcement federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“My position is that you shouldn’t take a patchwork approach,” said Lemieux. “It shouldn’t be one state versus another on an issue of crime and punishment.”
Vogt, however, calls Lemieux’s approach “misguided” and says that “by making marijuana illegal, we have created an ironic situation that has turned regulation and control over to the cartels and gangs which directly make our cities more dangerous by putting money into their pockets through a thriving black market.”
“Al Capone would be envious of the situation, and we all know how we got rid of gangsters like him, through legalization and regulation of alcohol,” says Vogt.
Although Lemieux believes federal drug laws should trump states’ rights to regulate marijuana, he thinks “states should be given the ability to fashion remedies for how you deal with people who break the law.”
“That’s what we’ve done in Florida with our diversion course which has been very successful in getting people the help they need and so that they don’t break the law again,” says Lemieux.
While the program may have successfully kept some out of jail, claims that it has been effective in making sure people “don’t break the law again” are dubious. In 2008, the FBI reports that police arrested 847,864 people for marijuana violations, down only slightly from the previous year’s record high total. Of those, approximately 89% were charged with possession only. The report also indicates that Florida had 159,916 arrests for drug abuse violations in 2008, second only to California.
Vogt argues that the efforts of the prohibitionists have been ineffective. “Arresting 800,000 Americans a year on marijuana charges has squandered scarce resources that could be used to actually protect our general public and make our communities a safer place, rather than breaking our communities apart and empowering drug dealers,” he says.
Lemieux, however, wants to expand the war on drugs. He told Stark about his recent letter to the administration regarding cannabinoid herbal blends, which are currently legal. “In light of the surge in adverse reports associated with the use of these products, efforts by multiple states to ban its sale and an overall lack of information regarding the extent of use and illicit distribution, expedited analysis by DEA and HHS is warranted,” said Lemieux in the letter.
Vogt has retired from the military police. He is now a Florida small business owner who is active in his church. He believes that “this is not a crime issue, but a health and spiritual issue.”
He says he would welcome the opportunity to meet with Lemieux and discuss his experience as a law enforcement officer.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to meet with Senator LeMieux to help him understand that only by legalizing and regulating marijuana can we actually take control of it and thereby put the violent thugs who sell it out of business,” says Vogt.
“How many more lives must we allow to be destroyed or lost before we actually do something that will end this madness once and for all?”