Cops disagree with anti-pot mayor who won't legalize weed to pay police

Cops disagree with anti-pot mayor who won't legalize weed to pay police

VicesSeptember 15, 2017 By Reilly Capps

Drugs are winning the Drug War, and the voices of marijuana prohibitionists are getting weaker and quieter by the day.

A few arguments from the prohibitionists do still sound reasonable, though. One came recently from John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He says it's wrong to use pot taxes to fund cops.

The Springs is a conservative citadel, full of huge Christian churches and two giant military institutions. The Springs is the largest city in Colorado without recreational marijuana (it has medical).

It's also running out of money, struggling to care for city parks, replace city vehicles and fund the police.

Marijuana folks suggest an obvious solution: legalize rec weed. The Springs might make $20 million in taxes; they could fund the city.

So far, this doesn't fly in the Conservatism's Hometown. There's lots of opposition to weed in Colorado Springs, from drill sergeants and gun owners and Jesus lovers who still believe Nancy Reagan's Just Say No talking points.

The Springs' mayor, John Suthers, a former Attorney General for Colorado, made the best argument for it, though. He said that essential government services — like the cops — should not be paid for with something that's against federal law.

This makes some sense. Paying local cops with money from a drug federal cops are sworn to destroy is an epic irony.

Is it wrong, though? Are cops and pot money like oil and water?

A spokesperson for John Suthers said he was unavailable to speak to Rooster Magazine about this.

Though pot activists gave us at least three good rebuttals to Suthers's argument.

1. Cops aren't anti-pot.

Cops, even cops in Colorado, aren't out of the pot game. They still bust adults for growing more than six plants, and for shipping product out of state.

But they're not prohibitionists. Two thirds of law enforcement officers favor some form of legal pot, according to a Pew survey of 8,000 officers. Only 30 percent said marijuana should be totally illegal.

Out on the street, every beat cop I've ever interviewed says they'd rather deal with stoners than drunks. Potheads are quiet and forgetful; alkies scream, punch, piss themselves and puke in the backseat.

Jason Thomas, a former deputy marshall in Prowers County in southeast Colorado, says he saw on the job how, "marijuana is not the creator of all the social problems we've been taught," not, "the evil and scourge that I was brought up to think."

Thomas is a spokesperson for LEAP — law enforcement against prohibition. He now runs a cannabis realty firm.

"I'm pro law enforcement and i'm pro legalization," Thomas says.

[Former police officer and pot activist Jason Thomas. From his Facebook page.]

2. Prohibition causes crime.

"The city's ban on retail sales is creating space for illegal actors and making it harder to eliminate the criminal market," says Mason Tvert, one of Colorado's leading cannabis advocates, and perhaps the guy most responsible for legalization. "[The mayor] is making the city less safe."

Adults without medical cards buy weed from underground sellers, who can be shady and occasionally violent, instead of from safe, legal, well-lit shops.

Says Tvert: "Illegal marijuana dealers in Colorado Springs are rooting for the city to continue banning sales."

[Cannabis activist and lobbyist Mason Tvert. Photo from VS Strategies.]

3. It's not that weird to fund cops with weed taxes.

It sounds dissonant: cops who bust scofflaws for growing seven plants when they're legally allowed six and nab smugglers for shipping weed out of state, would pocket money from that same substance.

But tax money is often funneled into strange places. For example, cigarette taxes fund the hospitals that cure lung cancer, and liquor taxes pay the paramedics to patch up drunk drivers.

So even though all doctors wish people would smoke fewer Marlboros; and all EMTs wish people would stop pounding Jagermeister and driving, they get money when folks puff and chug.

You can try to argue that it's twisted to get money from substances you actively oppose, but taxes are a complicated business, and most everybody pays for some things they hate: pacifists pay for bombs, Catholics pay for contraception.

And, in many states, cops get dough from dope. The world gets stranger every day.

[Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers. From Wikicommons.]

Colorado Springs activists are trying to put adult-use pot on the 2018 ballot.

Whether that passes or not, in the end, Suthers's justifications for the rec pot ban seem destined for history's garbage pile, along with the rest of the rotting Drug War.

And, yes: Colorado Springs could pay its cops and beautify its parks, advocates rightly point out. And it doesn't matter that that money might come from adult-use pot.

"I don't care about John Suthers's talking points," says Tvert. "Tax revenue is being flushed down the toilet. Nobody voted for him because they thought he would enforce federal marijuana laws — they voted for him because they thought he would keep police on the streets and keep the lights shining in the parks. And he's not."