Last week, Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca held a press conference to announce that his department had a suspect in custody who confessed to three West Hollywood murders. Baca used the platform to advance the political message of the No on 19 campaign, claiming that the murders were the result of increased violence caused by the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries. On the same day, the No on 19 campaign announced that Baca would serve as campaign co-chair with Dianne Feinstein.

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a member of the Just Say Now advisory board, responds:

Sheriff Baca says ‘there are predators armed and seeking easy dollars in sales of marijuana.’ He’s right. There is altogether too much marijuana-related violence in California. It’s been going on for years and, unless the marijuana prohibition is lifted — and replaced with a taxed, regulated, and controlled system — it will continue unabated. It’s that simple. The sheriff needs to ask himself, Would the three recent murders in West Hollywood have happened if marijuana were legal, its commerce controlled like alcohol? He knows the answer to that question, and so does Senator Feinstein. Marijuana prohibition is the cause of violence, not the cure.

Doug Bandow, former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and also a member of the Just Say Now advisory board, says that Baca should not abuse his role as Sheriff to promote a political agenda:

Since banks, jewelry stores, and wealthy homeowners attract thieves and robbers, presumably Sheriff Baca will next campaign for financial, jewelry, and wealth prohibition. After all, there wouldn’t be any bank robberies if there were no banks.

In fact, as has long been evident, it is drug prohibition that generates untold violent and destructive crime.  The sheriff is entitled to his opinion as co-chair of the anti-marijuana legalization campaign, but he shouldn’t distort his official duties to promote his political pursuits. The only way to end drug-related violence is to stop arresting users and turning production and sales over to criminals.”

Baca also claimed that many dispensaries purchased their marijuana from Mexican drug cartels. The Associated Press reported that “Baca presented no evidence to support his claim,” and the Drug Enforcement Administration indicated they could not substantiate Baca’s assertions either.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck has also challenged the claim made by Baca that marijuana dispensaries attract a criminal element.  “I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra,” said Beck. “It doesn’t really bear out.“

Baca has close ties to Scientology, and has used their materials to train deputies in his department. In 2004, the California Department of Education issued a report indicating that the claims made in the Scientology-sponsored Narconon drug treatment program were “exaggerated” and contained “inaccurate and misleading drug-related information” that would “confuse students and be perceived as designed to arouse fear.” As a result, California Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell recommended that California schools ban the Narconon program from classrooms.

More on the controversy surrounding the Scientology claims advanced by No on 19 Co-Chair Lee Baca can be found here.