He who is resistant to change... E-mail
Written by Diane Goldstein   

I recently heard an interesting quote: “Innovation never comes from established institutions.” This statement struck me profoundly because it provided a simple explanation as to why some law enforcement bureaucracies have been unable to evolve their stance on the issue of medical marijuana. The recent backlash from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) against the Department of Justice’s announcement that they would respect state laws on marijuana as long as the states regulate the trade responsibly is reflective of the lack of innovation of law enforcement leaders afraid to try new solutions when the old ones fail.

This lack of innovation has grounded some law enforcement organizations in groupthink. You see it in the headlines associated with the IACP as they rail against shifts in policy quietly supported by many law enforcement officers they claim to represent. They laid out the absurdity of their position in a recent letter claiming that the DOJ memo will make it harder for cops to do their job, when in practice it has been the DOJ which has stopped many localities from regulating using heavy handed raids, threatening letters and asset forfeiture on state compliant dispensaries:

“As law enforcement officials, we are charged with enforcing the law and keeping our neighborhoods and communities safe —a task that becomes infinitely harder for our front-line men and women given the Department’s position.”

It’s counterintuitive, but in California it is not the medical marijuana industry but the lack of regulation and the intransigence of our law enforcement leaders that make it harder for line cops to do their jobs. The incongruities of the laws are reflected by the diverse policies in place across the state from outright bans to local regulation.

LEAP is rapidly becoming an important global voice on the issue of the drug war's impact on families, government spending and insitutional integrity.

But here our law enforcement leaders ignore the successes of many of the cities that have successful regulatory processes in place. It is these successes that are ignored while our leaders “cherry pick” cities where a lack of regulation has contributed to the complaints as examples of why the law does not work.

Yet when the Legislature has attempted to provide better guidelines, law enforcement organizations lobbied against them, as happened recently here to SB 439. The Justice Department memo is not just necessary, but long overdue as it provides the states with the parameters necessary to ensure that good laws are passed protecting patients and legally compliant dispensaries while supporting public safety goals.

Clearly, the IACP, who still justifies their position through outdated claims linking marijuana and violence, and an outdated “gateway” theory hopes that using language couched in fear and emotion will allow them to perpetuate prohibition rather than establishing public policy based on best practices, the rule of law and research. For example, the 2012 UCLA study that directly contradicts their claim, stating that “density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates.”

Rather than explore a well-regulated marijuana model before lambasting it, however, the IACP instead continues to support a single solution (the prohibition of marijuana) that has not reduced use but has instead contributed to the escalation of violence in the illicit drug market and the misprioritization of police resources (nationwide, more people were arrested for marijuana in 2011 than for all violent crimes put together). Instead of helping local law enforcement become part of the solution, our leaders instead rail against it and continue to be part of the problem.

So this begs the question: At what point do our law enforcement leaders start to listen to dissenting voices even from their own community? Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the drug war, for whom I serve as a board member, has long said that regulating and controlling the market would enhance public safety. More recently, the

Richmond Police Chief pointed out the benefits of a regulated medical marijuana market, while the Humboldt County Sheriff called for the legalization and regulation of all marijuana. None of these people are outliers, but just some of the more outspoken and honest law enforcement professionals IACP fails to represent. They understand, as IACP doesn’t, that sometimes letting go of outdated practices is the only way to meet the demands of an evolving society.

As Charles Darwin once wrote: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who retired as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department, (CA). During her career she worked and managed a variety of patrol and investigative units. She is recognized as a subject matter expert and trainer in the area of crisis negotiations and critical incident management. She is a speaker and Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a guest columnist for The 420 Times, Ladybud Magazine and the Huffington Post and has appeared on radio, and television as a commentator.


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