Rational Chief Makes Sense. Drug Warrior Talks Nonsense.

2 police chiefs discuss legalizing pot

Which Chief is crazy? Don’t let the assault rifle fool you. On the left is the more rational retired SJPD Chief Joseph McNamara (back in the day) and on the right is a modern day drug warrior Chief Pete Dunbar of Pleasant Hill.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two police chiefs – former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara and Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar – faced off over legalizing marijuana in California in a Thursday webinar hosted by The Chronicle and SFGate.com.

About 60 individuals joined the online/telephone discussion to listen and ask questions about the societal consequences if voters pass Prop. 19 on the November ballot. Dana Sherne, an intern at SFGate.com, moderated the discussion.

McNamara is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Dunbar is a member of the California Police Chiefs Association. Each chief gave his views on five questions. Here’s a summary:

Q. Will legalizing marijuana increase the number of people using marijuana?

McNamara: We aren’t sure it will. But we know marijuana is making criminals out of 10 to 30 percent of the population because they use a substance we don’t approve of.

CW: Great point. It is unacceptable to continue to make criminals of a large percentage of our neighbors.

Dunbar: The Rand study says it will increase marijuana users in California. The proposition doesn’t legalize marijuana in California. It puts the onus on 478 cities and counties to legalize its use. Some counties and cities won’t approve.

CW: This is mostly a false assertion. It legalizes personal possession of up to an ounce and personal cultivation for adults over 21. The only thing that the cities have to regulate is whether or not, and how adult use cannabis will be distributed. This is because an initiative cannot force a municipality to break federal laws.

Q. Is increasing marijuana use a problem?

McNamara: Even if the proposition increases use, it will reduce the number of people arrested for marijuana possession.

CW: Good point. It is worth noting that estimates that use will double would only increase the percentage to that of the 1970s. Nobody thought there was a massive problem from cannabis in the 70s. At least they didn’t speak up if they did.

Dunbar: In my experience, marijuana use leads to violence on the streets. I don’t see that changing.

CW: Common drug warrior theme. The violence stems from the black market and prohibition. If anything, more people using cannabis instead of booze will obviously lead to less violence. Booze makes people violent and crazy.

Q. Will legalization end the black market for pot and the violence it engenders?

McNamara: Yes. Alcohol was once under criminal prohibition for 13 years. We don’t see the black market for alcohol operating today because sale and use is regulated. Legalization will take away a major source of funding for criminals.

CW: True dat.

Dunbar: There will be a black market for juveniles. I found marijuana was the deadliest drug because of the violence behind it.

CW: There is currently a black market for juvenile booze, prescription drugs, and I would assume tobacco. But not a lot of juvenile violence occurs over these issues. Most violence os from older black market participants, not kids trying to get high.

Q. Will legalizing marijuana help address the injustice that, while studies show more whites use marijuana than other racial groups, more minorities are arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use?

McNamara: Yes, this will change because it would eliminate marijuana arrests, which disproportionately involve blacks and Hispanics.

CW: The facts are facts. White people use cannabis at a much higher rate, but for example, LA County arrests of black persons for marijuana is 300% the rate of those of whites.

Dunbar: I don’t see this as a racial issue. To me, it is a people issue.

CW: Way to shift the focus with some random statement. You cannot see it as a racial issue if you would like, but the statistics speak boldly. It can be a “people issue” if you would like, but people happen to be different races and of those races minorities are far more likely to be imprisoned for use of cannabis. So next time, either answer the question asked or admit you have no comment.

Q. If Prop. 19 passes, and less taxpayer money is spent on cannabis-related arrests, where will those funds go?

McNamara: Law enforcement, court and prison costs would be diminished. If we lower the crime rate, we can free up resources for what people really want – focus on property crimes and violence.

CW: Yeah. Find a real criminal to bust. Geez.

Dunbar: For the last several years, marijuana possession has become a low priority. We still take sales and cultivation seriously. There’s not going to be extra money to do anything.

CW: Too bad. No more lining your pockets with inflated crime statistic cash because you arrest and criminalize people for using cannabis. I would like to see an honest report one day on the time , energy, and resources that go into marijuana enforcement in Pleasant Hill. Even writing a ticket takes an officer away from focusing on real issues for a period of time.

To listen to the entire discussion, go to sfgate.com/blogs/opinionshop.


This article appeared on page A – 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle

CW: It is obvious that the California Police Chiefs Association (A LOBBYING GROUP) is brainwashing its followers. I imagine that it is a bitter pill to swallow knowing that your ability to kick in doors, search cars, and rifle through people’s pockets because you smell cannabis may go away. You may actually have to do some real investigative work and maybe even begin focusing your time on apprehending real criminals, like thieves, gang bangers, wife beaters, and meth heads. The free lunch of padding the arrest statistics to create fear about the amount of crime in the community may be ending. I think there is still a lot of crime work to be done though, so fear not…unlike many Americans, you will still have a job to do. I am sure there are some illegal immigrants you can shake down if you get bored.

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