We all know that we aren’t supposed to smoke cannabis in public regardless of its legal status. Realistically, the temptation to light up outdoors on a beautiful day will not be ignored by many stoners. Depending on where you live, the risks vary but it will always result in some form of punishment. Thankfully no one else will ever be arrested for public marijuana use in the U.S. capital. Instead, those that are unlucky enough to evade the police will face a small fine of $25. Police will feel more like they are giving out a parking ticket then capturing some criminal. They will certainly not be going out of there way to cite people with a measly fine. They will likely only cite people who are blatant about their consumption. Catching someone for an arrestable offense always justifies an officers time and effort whether it is for marijuana possession or a serious assault. This policy change strips away the justification for wasting the taxpayers’ money and redirects the polices’ attention to more serious issues.
Before this policy change, officers already had the option to cite instead of arrest someone for public consumption. The change in policy simply mandates a citation instead of leaving it up to the discretion of the officer. The new change will of course not apply to minors or people that have outstanding warrants. This law also won’t apply to the large area of the capital that is considered “federal land”. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level and violators could face federal penalties for consuming and possessing marijuana. Records have shown that possession arrests have been falling ever since marijuana was legalized in D.C. in 2014. The same can not be said for public consumption arrests. They rose from less than 100 in 2014 to almost 300 the past couple of years. It seems the police are targeting the same group of people in a different but legal way. The policy change put forward this past week is targeting this practice and aims to strengthen relationships between members of the cannabis community and the police force.
I would like to think that before the change was made, officers went with a citation more often than not when someone was caught smoking in a public area. While there is no data on how many people were offered citations over an arrest, the number of arrests were far too high. Nobody gets arrested for drinking in public unless they are being obnoxious or are a danger to themselves and others. Cannabis should be given similar treatment and even more leniency then this harmful substance. This issue does seem like a minor thing to discuss considering many states are still arresting people for possession regardless of where they consume it. However, it is important that the punishment always reflects the crime so that the majority of people respect the law and those who enforce it.
There seems to be a never-ending list of absurd reasons police and other professions benefitting from the prohibition of marijuana have used to argue against legalization. The latest comes from a K-9 handler from Illinois, who claimed that dogs currently being used to detect controlled substances would most likely have to be killed. The fact that current dogs can’t be untrained from detecting the odor of cannabis, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be repurposed within the same department. Many of these same dogs have already been trained to track down fleeing suspects and could also be used as a threat to criminals hiding in an enclosed space. Those types of scenarios are routine and seem to happen in every episode of Cops. While the local police departments would have to procure and train new drug-sniffing dogs for roadside traffic stops, saying euthanization is the likely future for many pups is a desperate scare tactic. The center of drug investigations in states with prohibition including Illinois has always been marijuana. These departments have a ton to lose when it comes to funding, staffing, and most importantly, probable cause. Cannabis has a pungent odor that is the most recognizable among recreational drugs. This has been used as an excuse to search and arrest countless people for offenses including cannabis but often additional, more serious crimes.
I would like to believe that not all police officers are for the prohibition of cannabis and would enjoy not having to arrest people for simple possession. This individual officer ( Macon County Sherrif Buffett) was not part of this minority. He simply knows that the past few years have shown great legislative progress across the nation pertaining to legal cannabis. The public approval of recreational marijuana has been rising among polls steadily each year and is now said to lie slightly above the 60% mark nationwide. Desperate times call for desperate measures and in his eyes, this was the last resort speech he needed in order to support the growing problem of mass incarceration. K-9’s were put on the force to be trained and help fight the failed war on drugs. It’s not the community’s problem that there will be a surplus of dogs that shouldn’t have been used in the first place. If they can’t be reassigned as mentioned earlier, they could be adopted by gradually removing them from the working environment. Handlers already live with their dog outside of work hours, so there is no reason they couldn’t adjust to being there all day long.
The impact these type of nonsensical statements have on the public is often opposite from the original intent of the message. Many more people start to question the true purpose of the anti-pot stance and see right through the distraction and follow the money. Few still believe the illusion that the government is looking out for your health and the well-being of communities by outlawing plants, but they’re out there. Opponents like Buffett are simply putting themselves on the wrong side of history before it is written. Not many people have a positive outlook on Harry Anslinger from the 1930’s or anyone else that put profits over doing the right thing. The fact that the war on drugs got so out of control and drug squads grew into a local military force, isn’t a reason to keep unnecessary jobs employed. There are many professions that have been wiped out due to their inability to adapt to change(political or technological) and law enforcement should be expected to do the same.