Drug Policy

Columbia, Missouri Police Chief on Board With Legalizing Marijuana?

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I've been fairly hard on Columbia, Missouri Police Chief Ken Burton since video emerged of his department's SWAT raid on a marijuana offender. But to be fair, though the reforms he proposed missed the most important point—the misapplication of force in using SWAT raids on people suspected of nonviolent crimes—he has at least shown more concern than other police officials in similar situations. And I suspect even the reforms he did propose weren't popular within his department.

The video below, courtesy of the Marijuana Policy Project blog, shows Burton may be coming around on the foolishness of marijuana prohibition in general.

Money quote:

"I applaud your efforts," he told a reporter who asked about campaigns to change marijuana laws. "If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that."

Last week, Burton announced that all of his officers involved in the now-infamously YouTubed marijuana raid have been cleared of any wrongdoing. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, that's to be expected. The raid was routine, and consistent with the law, not just in Columbia but in much of the country. It's the law that's the problem.

The MPP blog also points to an interesting quote by D.C. Metro PD Assistant Chief Peter Newsham that's not quite as explicit, but seems to acknowledge that the only dangerous elements to marijuana are due to it being illegal.

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  1. Fire that man! I wouldn’t be surprised if he was selling marijuana to school children on the side.

    1. Probably grows the marijuana in the local park too!

    2. Maybe you’re selling reefer Juanita? Just go away.

  2. The raid was routine, and consistent with the law, not just in Columbia but in much of the country. It’s the law that’s the problem.

  3. Classic drug scare story. hits all the marks

    http://content.usatoday.net/di…..3335.story

    1. DEA analysis of heroin purchased undercover found the drug was nearly 60 percent pure – the highest average purity in the U.S. At the same time, the price was among the lowest.

      Yeah, totally winning that war on drug.

      The trip up I-5 also leads to Oregon, where state Medical Examiner Karen Gunson said the heroin problem is worst in communities along the interstate. The state had 131 heroin-related overdose deaths last year – 42 more than three years earlier.

      Yeah, numbers like these totally justify the scare tactics in this article.

    2. “Glendale, Calif., often ranks among the safest cities of its size. But police are concerned about a growing heroin problem tied to Mexican street gangs from nearby Los Angeles. Gang members make the quick drive up Interstate 5 to deliver heroin straight to high school kids.”

      Not only are the Mexicans involved- but the Armenians are using the herion to seduce white women. We have a real crisis here folks.

  4. This is actually a very promising sentiment to hear from a chief. I’m amazed.

    1. Me too. I’m becoming slowly slowly less pessimistic about legalizing MJ. Not in our lifetime of course, or in our children’s lifetime, but possibly our children’s children will live to see it.

      1. With all of the debt they’ve been saddled with, they’ll be lucky if they will be able to by schwag.

      2. I’m more optimistic. I think it happens within a generation.

      3. I’m Warren!

    2. Sort if encouraging. If he is a doubter of pot prohibition, it stands to reason that his department might conform to less militaristic ways of enforcing a policy with which he’s not in agreement.

      He may question prohibition, but he’s still sending in SWAT units to deal with those who use. Those two positions are not reconcilable.

  5. The raid was routine, and consistent with the law, not just in Columbia but in much of the country.

    You’re being too nice, Mr. Balko. I cannot believe that this shooting was legal.

    At a minimum, the cop who shot the dogs was guilty of reckless endangerment. Cops can only shoot people in self-defense (defined the same as it is for all citizens), and, depending on your state, when necessary to make a felony arrest of a dangerous criminal. None of that applies here. Cops do not have a legal license to be trigger-happy.

    1. You’ve been living under a rock the past several years, haven’t you.

    2. Huh?????

    3. “You’re being too nice, Mr. Balko. I cannot believe that this shooting was legal.”

      Mr. Balko seems to be of the mindset that if the government says it is the law then why it must be the law.

      No need to apply the actual written law – their word is law.

  6. Stupid joke handle.

  7. “If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that.”

    So tell your officers to concentrate on enforcing other laws!

    1. i agree. i once had a chief like that.

      he told me … first day (dunphy) “I don’t care WHAT people are smoking in the privacy of their homes. ”

      nice

  8. As a Columbia resident, I should mention that the city is actually a pretty liberal college town where possession of small amounts of marijuana has already been decriminalized.

    Still, good to hear the Police Chief talking like this.

  9. It would be nice if some of those top flight journalism students at UM would raise a ruckus over the raid. Unfortunately, I don’t think their teachers will do much to encourage them.

  10. “the only dangerous elements to marijuana are due to it being illegal”

    LOL

    Yeah, this is why no one takes libertarianism seriously.

    1. it’s a bit simplistic, but it’s essentially true.

      fwiw, ALL drugs have dangers/risks. an ancient greek once said “everything is a poison in sufficient dose”. WATER will kill you if you drink too much (electrolyte dilution).

      MJ *has* no LD50. it is about as nonlethal as a drug can be. are there DANGERS? sure. but in no cases are those dangers lethal.

      MJ is not physically addictive, it does not promote violent behavior (alcohol frequently does. ). etc.

      it is certainly not HARMLESS, but it’s about as benign as a psychoactive substance could be

      and dangerous, violent crimes associated with the trafficking of mj would all but dissapear if it was legalized.

      1. “the only dangerous elements to marijuana are due to it being illegal”

        Just so we’re aware what was said, champ.

        1. How about you construct an actual argument, Vernunft? What dangerous element to MJ is not due to it being illegal?

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