John Russo: “Regulating and controlling marijuana is really a law-and-order measure”

28 Apr

Disclosure: I proudly work for the Control & Tax Cannabis campaign.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo wrote an excellent op-ed about the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 that I thought was worth sharing. As the City Attorney of the first city in the country to regulate the sales of medical marijuana, Russo has seen first hand that regulation can improve public safety and believes the same can be accomplished statewide and beyond with the passage of the initiative:

As the City Attorney of Oakland — a city where dozens of people are killed in drug-related murders every year — my primary concern is the war on marijuana’s collateral damage to public safety.

Black market marijuana is a main source of fuel powering the vast criminal enterprises that threaten peace on our streets and weaken national security on our borders. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Mexican drug cartels get more than 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the United States.

Money is the oxygen of these organizations. For decades, our approach to fighting violent drug gangs has been like trying to put out a house fire with a watering can. Why not try shutting off the fire’s oxygen supply?

Russo’s right. The war on drugs has been an utter failure, not only at curbing the use of illegal drugs but also at ending violence. Cannabis regulation is a way to curb this violence and to stop needless arrests that waste tax payer dollars:

The cost of enforcing prohibition is hard to estimate. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars and countless law enforcement hours arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes, further overburdening courts and prisons. Jail beds needed for marijuana offenders could be “used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space,” the state Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote.

More than 61,000 Californians were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2008. That same year, about 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved statewide. The reality is that resources tied up fighting marijuana would be better spent solving and preventing violent felonies and other major crimes.

Russo’s entire op-ed is worth a read so I encourage you to click through and read the entire piece, but if not, he sums up his points well at the end:

Regulating and controlling marijuana is really a law-and-order measure. It takes marijuana off street corners and out of the hands of children. It cuts off a huge source of revenue to the violent gangsters who now control the market. And it gives law enforcement more capacity to focus on what really matters to Californians — making our communities safer.

It’s time we call marijuana prohibition what it is — an outdated and costly approach that has failed to benefit our society. In November, we will finally have the chance to take a rational course with the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act.

Oaklanders like Russo have seen firsthand that marijuana regulation and taxation works. Now it’s up to us to spread that message to the rest of the state to ensure the passage of this initiative in November.

6 Responses to “John Russo: “Regulating and controlling marijuana is really a law-and-order measure””

  1. Andy K April 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    It will be great if this thing passes. The drug war is way, way out of control and has been for at least 25 years (probably more). Becks, what is the polling showing? It seems like the time might be right.

    I don’t know if any of you heard the “great” report on Your Call last week about the massive problems in Mexico caused by this war. The costs in lives and treasure is unbelievable.

    • Becks April 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

      A poll came out last week that showed marijuana legalization had 56% support in California, though we’re going to have our work cut out for us turning out young voters who overwhelmingly support the initiative. We’re not taking any votes for granted. We can win this, but it’s going to take of work.

  2. Brad April 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Does the marijuana legalization measure legalize the large scale growing, transportation, and sale of marijuana? Or does it just legalize personal possession and use? Because it’s the large scale growing, transportation, and sale of marijuana with which the violence is associated.

    • Becks April 29, 2010 at 9:14 am #

      The initiative legalizes small scale cultivation for personal use and transportation of small amounts for personal use.

      However, cities and counties would be able to regulate commercial sales, cultivation, and transportation of marijuana. I imagine there will be strict regulations locally, just as there are now for sales of medical marijuana.

      • Brad April 29, 2010 at 9:40 am #

        So . . . what does that mean? Will it or won’t it reduce the amount of large-scale illegal drug cultivation, smuggling, and sales? The very things that spark the violence and sustain the “vast criminal enterprises” that Russo references.

        • Becks April 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

          Yes, it will reduce the smuggling and violent crime associated with it. There will still be large scale cultivation, but it will be legal, controlled and taxed.

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