Slum-Words is thrilled to have secured an interview in advance of Proposition 19 going to the ballot box with none other than our fave law enforcement figure. We used to see ex-San Jose police chief, now legal pot proponent and Hoover fellow, Joseph McNamara, strolling through downtown as we’d skate by, stoned. And though we were probably holding our then illegal sack o’ weed, we always waved. He always waved back.
We still salute him, and extend a big thanks for gracing us with his presence.
SW: Have you smoked marijuana? Would you admit it if you have? And by not admitting it can we take it as a “yes”?
JM: No. – Yes. – Just never did, allergic to smoke. Never smoked but think it’s natural for people to be curious and try pot.
SW: Did being an NYC beat cop help form your attitude about marijuana? What was it like then in Harlem? Was it as described in Claude Brown’s “Manchild in the Promised Land”?
JM: Yes. We had 100 murders a year in one square mile. My first arrest as a rookie walking a solo foot beat was for First Degree Murder. There was so much serious crime, no self-respecting cop would bother with anything so trivial as a pot arrest. The poverty, discrimination of segregation, and violence was a culture shock even for a kid growing up poor in a working class neighborhood.
SW: What the hell is a gateway drug? Is there such a thing, and if so, is marijuana really the culprit? Or is it alcohol?
JM: There is no empirical proof of a gateway drug. Statements that someone is 36 times more likely to do something if they smoke pot etc. are totally improper and no one who is a reputable researcher confuses correlation with causation. There are almost an infinite number of variables involved.
SW: What exactly would Prop. 19 accomplish in layman’s terms?
JM: Prop. 19 legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana.
SW: Would this help law enforcement?
JM: Yes it helps. Law Enforcement’s priority is to protect life and property and should be focused on that and not diverted to something as minor as pot which should not be a crime in the first place. Legalization lets police save resources, destroys the criminal black market which funds cartels, gangs, and creates violence, corruption and a great deal of crime. Also, minorities are discriminated against in stops, arrests and incarcerations for pot. In addition to pushing some people into criminal lifestyles this creates resentment of the police in the most victimized areas where the police most need cooperation of people in reporting crime, serving as witnesses, and when on a jury believing police testimony.
SW: What happens to the “will of the people” if Prop. 19 passes and the Feds still interfere?
JM: Proposition 19 means the will of the people becomes law. The Fed threat to interfere with the will of CA voters (made 2 weeks before the election) is a sleazy attempt to undermine the vote of the people. The Feds fail miserably now – anyone who wants marijuana can get as much as they want – and attempting to prosecute Californians in compliance with Prop. 19, but in violation of Fed law, would require vast increases in Fed cops, prosecutors, courts, etc., and additional $billions added to the deficit. Even Washington wouldn’t dare, given the present backlash against gov. spending, taxes, and deficits. It would be the same as Bush and Obama administrations laying off pursuing violators of Prop. 215 who comply with CA law.
SW: Lately there have been raids in San Jose, and it appears there are abuses being committed by some dispensaries. If you were still our chief how would you handle it?
JM: Some of the raids are harassment and eventually will not be tolerated because they violate the law. The fact that some dispensaries abuse the law is no reason to disregard the law itself. The chief is obliged to enforce the law and should do so in an appropriate, reasonable way and not allow enforcement to become someone’s crusade.
SW: Speaking of flouting the current law (Prop. 215), would it it be safe to conjecture that most card carrying patients aren’t all THAT ill but are forced to play along? And does it really bother a cop to not be able to bust someone with a card?
JM: No. It may bother some cops but that is their problem and their agencies should not allow them to engage in unprofessional conduct.
SW: Uninformed sources have relayed tales of Law Enforcement pow-wows hosted at Hoover. We’d heard the war on drugs was a topic and the consensus was to legalize, but that the police chiefs in attendance could never publicize their opinion. Is this correct?
JM: No. I organized four conferences at Hoover over an eight-year period for police chiefs, police executives and some narcs. They were on drug control policy. None specifically focused on legalization and it was not debated. After each conference law enforcement officers were asked to anonymously fill out an evaluation. Their privacy was ensured. The police were unanimous after all four conferences in opining:
1. The drug war was being lost.
2. Continuing present policies would
not win the drug war.
3. More arrests and more incarcerations would
not win the drug war.
4. They thought the conferences were valuable,
had covered new ground, and they would attend future open-minded conferences if held. The media was invited and attended the conferences and all participants were given the opportunity to speak on any subject they chose.
SW: Being a top notch ex-cop and mystery writer can you officially confirm the mysterious origin of the term 420?
JM: Don’t know about that.
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