Efforts are underway to legalize marijuana in Arizona in two years, and the idea has some support. But there’s one group that won’t be backing the idea anytime soon: cops.
The Arizona County Attorney & Sheriff’s Association, which represents sheriff’s officials and local prosecutors, voted July 16 to formally oppose attempts to legalize cannabis.
Most prosecutors and deputies at the group’s meeting voted in favor of the resolution, said Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties. One sheriff abstained, while officials from two counties weren’t present.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-marijuana organization, is already pushing a legalization campaign in Arizona for 2016. The state approved medical weed in 2010, and advocates see it as a potential political foothold.
The Marijuana Policy Project views the state as one of 10 that are ripe for reform by 2017. Currently, Arizona has some of the toughest anti-pot laws in the country.
Possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony in Arizona, punishable by a minimum of four months in jail and a maximum of two years in prison, plus a $750 fine. Penalties increase for possession of 2 pounds or more.
The resolution by the law enforcement group laid out almost two dozen points explaining its position against weed. Many of the points reflected urban legends about the drug, such as its supposed tendency to make people behave impulsively.
Prosecutors and deputies also complained marijuana is harmful to the teenage brain, lowers IQ scores, and makes users less productive in the workplace.
A study released last year refuted the idea that cannabis lowers IQ scores. The link between marijuana use and brain damage is tenuous at best. And a recent study that found weed is tied to low productivity failed to prove that pot itself is the culprit.
The DARE mentality is still highly prevalent in police departments across the country, despite voluminous evidence showing the “Just Say No” approach has never worked – not for Nancy Reagan, not for cops today. The resolution is yet another sign that law enforcement is woefully out of step when it comes to weed.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the prosecutor whose district includes Phoenix, said he voted yes “to ensure a full and fair discussion in the debate over marijuana and other drugs.” Cannabis activists, he said, have “left a gross misimpression of the real physical, mental, and emotional harm” the drug allegedly causes.
Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the vote makes no sense.
“It’s baffling that law enforcement officials would prefer adults use alcohol instead of marijuana when alcohol is far more dangerous,” Tvert said.
He said cops may be opposed to legal pot in part because reform could deprive them of money and other resources. Marijuana busts are used to fund many police departments, and change could rob cops of some of their authority.
“Some law enforcement officials view this as a loss of power for their offices,” Tvert said. “If they no longer need to arrest and prosecute thousands of adults for marijuana, they might not need as many resources as they’re receiving.”