This year, Californians will vote on a ballot measure that could legalize weed recreationally in the state. Many of the groups donating money to fight the legalization effort represent police and corrections officers. Why do you think that might be?
The Intercept dug up a disclosure filing showing donations from several state law enforcement and corrections associations to a lobbying group called the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, which raised $60,000 in the first three months of this year with the aim of beating legalization. Keeping cannabis illegal is good business for the cops, and these groups are probably not solely concerned with the placid horrors of weed addiction. For instance: The Department of Justice gives grants to police departments for fighting drugs, including marijuana; cops can use asset forfeiture to seize cash and gear from dealers and keep it for themselves; more people in jail for pot possession or dealing means greater demand and more job opportunities for prison guards. If pot is legalized, all of those revenue streams suddenly dry up.
The Intercept notes that John Lovell, the lobbyist who founded the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, has previously worked to funnel federal money into weed enforcement and to stymie asset forfeiture reform, which would have made seizing your stuff less profitable for the police. Making money isn’t just a pleasant side effect of prohibition for these guys; it’s the whole ballgame.
The law enforcement community’s flailing to stop legalization also happens to show exactly why it’s a good idea to support it, even if you don’t smoke: Fewer people imprisoned, and less policing for policing’s (and profit’s) sake. Go out and vote for pot this November, California.