Civil Liberties

Drug War Propaganda Counts as State Police Training in Missouri

Sworn law enforcement officers fulfill state-mandated training requirements by learning the latest Reefer Madness talking points.


In Missouri, sworn law enforcement officers are required to take 48 credit hours of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) continuing education every three years. While some specific courses are required for all officers, such as mandatory firearms classes, the majority are elective courses that simply must add up to a minimum of 48 credit hours. The only other restriction is that a minimum of four credit hours of courses must be taken from each of the four different course categories: legal studies, interpersonal studies, technical studies, and skill development. To fulfill these requirements officers can choose from dozens of courses offered at law enforcement training sessions and conferences across the state.

One of the most highly attended training conferences each year is hosted by the Missouri Narcotic Officers Association (MNOA). Hundreds of cops from across the state make the trip to Lake Ozark, Missouri, on the taxpayers' dime, and most of the state's narcotics officers are in attendance. Several of Missouri's 26 multi-jurisdictional drug task forces cite this conference as their only chance to receive training each year, and one even requires all officers to attend the MNOA training as a condition of their employment. This conference offers several courses that fulfill different continuing education requirements.

As it turns out, some of the classes offered aren't exactly what you might consider official law enforcement training. At the annual conference this past March, one course was titled, "Marijuana Legalization: The Issues." It was taught by Tom Gorman—a drug cop from Colorado who travels the country on what seems to be a never-ending anti-legalization crusade. He's been called a "drug-war soldier," and his role as both a federal drug cop and a lobbyist has been repeatedly criticized. Gorman is perhaps most famous for his recent comments on marijuana regulation; he accused entire state legislatures of criminal conspiracy, declaring, "Everybody that has anything to do with this is engaged in a criminal act." Gorman lists books he has written as part of his qualifications to teach the "Marijuana Legalization: The Issues" training course, including The Myths of Drug Legalization and Marijuana Is Not a Medicine. Despite his claim of expertise on the medical value of marijuana, Gorman does not have a medical degree. He has a bachelor's degree in criminology from San Jose State University. 

In March, Gorman traveled from Colorado to the Show-Me State to help train Missouri's finest at the MNOA conference. His course was certified by the state's training program and was counted as two credit hours (half of the four required) in the "technical studies" category. The state training program defines this category as training that "focuses on specialized studies or activities which directly relate to the job description, including first aid and CPR training." Instead of learning first aid or CPR, they had the chance to learn about "Marijuana Legalization: The Issues" in a presentation that could have been taken straight out of Reefer Madness.

The syllabus and course materials for state-certified training courses are public records under Missouri's Sunshine Law. A look at the content from Gorman's "Marijuana Legalization: The Issues" course is, admittedly, laugh-out-loud funny in its absurdity. (You can view the course content in its entirety here) However, it's genuinely concerning that this passes as actual police training in Missouri:

The table of contents for the main handout for the course reads like an exercise in drug warrior logic. Tom Gorman originally prepared this handout in 2012 for a group called Healthy and Drug Free Colorado. The table of contents provides a snapshot into the alternate reality in which the course instructor resides—a world where alcohol prohibition was "relatively successful" and the "theory" that drug laws have a racial component is "not supported."

In this course, police were actually taught that alcohol prohibition was quite a success, and that "those people who claim prohibition didn't work have watched too many movies." Officers are told "crime during prohibition did not skyrocket" on the grounds that the murder rate climbed "only 30%." To top it off, they're taught that prohibition didn't change the role of the mafia, because they "existed as a criminal enterprise before prohibition."

The course also includes a nice lesson on prisons. It teaches that "pro-legalizers disregard facts and exaggerate statistics" because "the truth is not on their side" when they claim more than 800,000 nonviolent marijuana users are arrested each year. Officers are informed that, "in fact, our prisons are packed with individuals who use drugs and commit [other] crimes while under the influence." Consider for a moment the way this lesson shapes the mentality of an officer interacting with either a casual user or a person struggling with addiction. This lesson is counterproductive to the recent (and much needed) pushback against the dehumanization of drug users.

Perhaps most concerning, the course tells officers they have nothing to worry about when it comes to racial disparities in arrests. It repeatedly affirms that drug laws and police practices have no racial component whatsoever, in what appears to be an attempt to reassure officers who fear they may be contributing to systemic racism. After all, according to the course, "it's not that difficult to go through life without committing a felony" and implies that if you do, you're basically scum and you got what you deserved. The lesson goes on to explain that drug laws can't possibly be racist, because black people also get arrested at disproportionate rates for other crimes. Officers are taught that they shouldn't worry about the role race plays in policing, because it's a made-up problem propagated by legalization activists. Teaching officers to be deliberately ignorant of racial issues makes for terrible police practices. This course was taught less than five months before the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the odds are high that some officers present in the disturbing aftermath of the shooting had attended and received credit for this lesson on how to avoid confronting difficult racial issues. 

Of course, Tom Gorman has every right to hold those opinions. He has every right to travel the country sharing those opinions. But he is doing so at the expense of the taxpayers, and attending one of his propaganda sessions counts as actual law enforcement training.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has a Peace Officer Standards and Training division, which oversees law enforcement training and certifies classes as deserving of police training credit hours. I reached out for comment, and they couldn't provide an example of a course that had ever been rejected as law enforcement training. When asked if the Department of Public safety considered Gorman's course appropriate continuing education, the Communications Director for DPS responded, "Yes, this course falls into the technical studies area and is approved for two hours of continuing law enforcement education credit."

Further research reveals a similar course was certified and taught at the MNOA conference in 2012. Sgt. Jason Grellner, past president of the MNOA and local drug task force commander (Missouri's own Tom Gorman) taught this course, in which he argues that we need to go to extraordinary lengths to decrease drug use and says "drug testing should be done at all security checkpoints" (full course content is available here). This seminar was also a two-credit-hour course in the category of "technical studies," so officers could fulfill the four-hour technical studies requirement entirely by attending anti-legalization propaganda seminars.

Taxpayers should be troubled by the notion that their money, allocated for the important task of training of our law enforcement officers, is used to fund political propaganda. Missourians should be troubled by the notion that learning the latest anti-legalization talking points counts as training hours for law enforcement. Cannabis policy reform activists should be troubled by the fact that dismantling an 80-year-old marijuana-prohibition complex, already an uphill battle, becomes even harder when we are forced to fund political training for our opposition with tax dollars.

NEXT: Brickbat: Now, Exhale

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  1. You can't be an effective soldier if you don't believe absolutely that your enemy must be defeated at all cost. (Except officer safety.)

  2. Puritanism: the unquenchable fear that someone, somewhere is having fun.

    1. Requisite Objectivist Copypasta

      "Didn't they all preach the sacrifice of personal joy? Under all the complications of verbiage, haven't they all had a single leitmotif: sacrifice, renunciation, self-denial? Haven't you been able to catch their theme song--'Give up, give up, give up, give up'? Look at the moral atmosphere of today. Everything enjoyable, from cigarettes to sex to ambition to the profit motive, is considered depraved or sinful. Just prove that a thing makes men happy--and you've damned it. That's how far we've come. We've tied happiness to guilt. And we've got mankind by the throat."

  3. If you get the title "expert" your opinion is no longer just an opinion, it is gospel. See: climate scientist

  4. Colorado seems to be a nucleation point for all things bad in Law Enforcement training. It's like a "wintering-over" spot for the LE training-circuit circus. Tom Gorman has about as much credibility when it comes to counter-narcotics training as John Giduck does when it comes to counter-terrorism training. For some insight as to how fucked up LE training can be, check out the saga of John Giduck, and how he trained thousands of cops to protect our schools, until he was outed as a complete self-fabricated phony. Your tax dollars at work.

  5. I feel bad for the poor saps who are working at the hotel where that conference is being held.

    Hundreds of drug "warriors" are going to descend on them and drink themselves to knee walking drunk each night. And who can you call when they start acting like the assholes that they are?

    1. It gets especially bad around closing time because they refuse to accept last call and continue to demand drinks. This restaurant where I used to cook was often frequented by the local police department. On those days they'd stay open way past the legal time to serve. They had no choice. By then all the non-cop customers had been driven out, and the place was a mob of drunken meatheads. The staff couldn't kick them out, couldn't call the cops on them, and had no choice but to serve them or face their wrath. I seem to recall they didn't tip worth a shit either.

      1. They already risk their lives everyday to protect you from demon weed, pussy for rent, and pit bulls disguised as labradoodles and you want a tip too? Here's a tip. Obey peasant.

    2. Isn't this a scene in Fear and Loathing?

  6. OK wow thats pretty funny man, LIke for real.

  7. Yeah the time of Al Capone and the Purple Gang was great.Not to mention all the people poisoned by additives in alcohol put in by the feds.It's hard to believe that anyone can be this evil.

  8. You can't end the drug war. There's too much money in it.

    1. Exactly. It's all about budget building/protecting.

      1. ...not to mention career building/protecting.

  9. I believe this touches on a more systemic problem with law enforcement brainwashing ... I mean training. The United Police States of America has embarked upon a dangerous, politicized "them vs us" mentality to justify brutal enforcement of it's overly harsh laws. So the wonderful officers protecting us all from these dangerous drugs can still feel vindicated when throwing flash grenades into baby cribs.

    1. The public that the police serve is everyone but you, with you being anyone they come into contact with.

    2. The police are the fists of a problem that grows far more insidious as the money becomes thicker and the heads more collegiate.

  10. A former coworker of mine, who is married to a police officer, recently demanded I change my position on legalization because it would be difficult for police to discern impaired driving without the drug test (as you know, pot stays in your system so a positive wouldn't mean you are high at that moment). My response was why can't the dashcam footage of the driver crossing the yellow line multiple times be used as evidence? Never really got a good response.

    1. Tell here it's easy,if someone is driving recklessly you arrest them,if not,leave them the hell alone

      1. We had several rounds of that. Apparently, a judge wouldn't think the dashcam video of plowing across lawns and hitting trashcans on the side of the road would be compelling enough for a conviction. Not would the video tape of someone doing a non-chemistry sobriety test failing miserably would help render a guilty verdict. One of her texts:
        Wow dude. Try being a cop. You are way off base on this one.

        1. the road side tests are crap,and breath machines have high error margins.Seeing someone driving recklessly,or having caused crash is the only thing I would consider proof.They wouldn't want me on a jury

          1. Her husband is a cop. His penis goes inside her (apparently barely though. For real. Actually fits that stereotype.). So her focus is a stop leads to a test that leads to an arrest.

        2. What I might text back to such a person: "Friend, I'm small-time. Have you tried convincing Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to change *their* position?"

  11. Our government has "bought" our law enforcement agencies with funding,,in order to "qualify" they must dance the way the fiddler leads,,as competition and demand for funding increases the dance gets faster with less control and more danger for other dancers and spectators,,this dance must be shut down,,we,the people must take this power from our government by passing the taxes and local funding requirements of our police Just say no to the federal grants programs.

    It will be much cheaper for taxpayers than federal funding,,,unless of course you feel your town needs an armored vehicle to make an arrest.

    1. Most people don't get it that a federal grant is actually money that was taken from you to begin with and given back, often only if you 'match it' with more of your dollars, only if you agree to spend it in a way that someone else thinks you should spend it. Worse, every dollar they 'give you back' is actually about 30% borrowed against your future paycheck and the rest is money they just took from someone else because they already spent the money they took from you. This is known as a sound fiscal policy by politicians and economically ignorant voters.

  12. There are just way too many billions to be made in the anti-drug business for this to go away anytime soon. Political propaganda is just part and parcel of a very lucrative system.

    Check out any major anti-drug conference and the attendees run from your typical sleazy highly-paid prohibitionists to Harvard psychiatrists and medical centers running multi-million dollar drug policy/addiction businesses.

    It's a sordid mess of crony capitalism wrapped in a sticky morality condom.

    1. The same could be said for anything that law enforcement is involved in, not just drug prohibition. There have been entire training companies devoted to training law enforcement personnel, that were stood up on the back of one person with totally bullshit credentials (see John Giduck). Even AFTER they've been outed as complete fakes, they continue to be supported by law enforcement, lest all that "valuable" POST training they bought and paid for be deemed unacceptable. The various Professional Standards and Department Accreditation organizations are like Common Core for cops: You must meet standards, even if those standards are meaningless.

  13. my best friend's step-sister makes $76 /hour on the computer . She has been fired for eight months but last month her paycheck was $19763 just working on the computer for a few hours. browse around this website....


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