Sep 192013
 September 19, 2013

legalize cannabis minneapolis sheriff marijuana legalizationThe Hennepin County Sheriff, Rich Stanek, has authored an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune entitled “Lax marijuana enforcement is bad” that predicts all manner of doom thanks to the Justice Department’s refusal to enjoin Washington and Colorado legalization measures.

Sheriff Stanek writes that DOJ’s approach means “keeping neighborhoods safe will become more difficult”, yet in the very next paragraph he claims DOJ’s lack of response “will encourage other states to legalize marijuana”.  Why would the other states, seeing the devastation he predicts in Washington and Colorado, then move to legalize marijuana?  How can both his suppositions be true?

Sheriff Stanek seems to think the status quo of criminal control of marijuana markets and criminalization of marijuana consumers is working.  He supports his theory with a litany of allegations about cannabis use that don’t stand the scrutiny of science and actually argue for the legalization and regulation of marijuana he so fears.

The sheriff is concerned about trafficking across state lines, I suppose to the other states that weren’t encouraged to legalize it.  As I understand it, that’s a crime now, still, after legalization in two states, just as it has been a crime for forty-two years.  It’s never been stopped before legalization, it will never be stopped after legalization, because you cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.  Minnesota’s failure to stop its citizens from smoking weed is hardly an argument for the feds to shut down Washington’s and Colorado’s weed markets, leaving legalized possession and maintaining criminal trafficking.

Stanek is terrified of the alleged increases in “stoned driving”, noting statistics that prove only that more people are smoking marijuana.  Fatalities involving drivers who test positive for marijuana only means they had smoked sometime ago, not necessarily that they were stoned at the time.  Besides, Sheriff Stanek notably fails to mention that overall fatalities, including drunk drivers, are down in Colorado.  Perhaps some of them are switching to weed instead?

Sheriff Stanek even dusts off an oldie but goodie, saying, “Marijuana is an addictive gateway drug”, despite every major organization that has studied this since our own Institute of Medicine in 1999 agreeing that the gateway theory is a myth.  There’s nothing physiological about marijuana that leads to other drugs; it’s that marijuana is lumped in with other drugs.  Despite statistics that show use of cigarettes or alcohol are much better predictors of future drug abuse, nobody thinks of them as “gateway drugs” because they don’t get them from a street dealer who’s also selling crack, meth, and heroin.  Countries like the Netherlands that have separated “soft” drug markets for marijuana from “hard” drug markets have resulted in much lower “hard” drug addiction problems.

“Drug task forces here have linked marijuana to assaults and homicides,” warns Sheriff Stanek, which is doubtlessly true, since prohibited markets settle their disputes not with courts and lawyers, but with guns and bribes.  Nobody sees Leinenkugel’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon dealers shooting it out on the streets of Minneapolis, do they?  Can you recall the last major assault case over a pack of cigarettes?  Again Stanek tries to bolster his case with statistics of how many people arrested or jailed have tested positive for marijuana, a dubious stat when using marijuana can get you arrested and jailed, which again only tells us people like to smoke pot.

Sheriff Stanek is also concerned that the DOJ “sends the wrong message about the dangers of marijuana, especially to youths.”  I wonder how the sheriff thinks we’re sending the right message to youth about cigarettes, use of which is down among teenagers to its lowest ever recorded levels?  How did we manage to send the right messsage without arresting and imprisoning adults who smoke cigarettes?  The debunked harms to learning and IQ he cites seem to argue that we ought to check the IDs of cannabis consumers, unlike the status quo.  The harm to youth argues for placing weed behind the counter.  And his citation of more kids in rehab for marijuana is also moot when getting caught equals a sentence to rehab.

Finally, Sheriff Stanek promises that legalizing marijuana will not end criminal gangs.  On that, we can agree.  Criminals commit crimes, always have, always will.  What we’re saying is, how about we make marijuana one of the crimes they can no longer commit?  Why should otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers be forced to participate in a criminal market?  Why give such a lucrative market to criminals when we can tax, regulate, and control it for society’s benefit?

The fact is the Sheriff and all the law enforcment organizations he writes on behalf of are merely protecting their budgets.  Sheriff Stanek is the president of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.  County sheriffs offices get a large amount of funding from the federal grants that target drug crimes (but no other crimes) and reward departments for their increasing arrest numbers.  They also receive a huge bounty in civil asset forfeitures, where they can keep the cash, cars, and homes of people caught growing or possesing marijuana.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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About Russ Belville

I am the executive director of 420RADIO.org and host / producer of The Russ Belville Show - The Independent Voice of the Marijuana Nation at http://radicalruss.com - live from Portland, Oregon. I was the winner of The Search for the Next Great Progressive Talk Radio Star and a former host on XM Satellite Radio and Portland's AM 620 KPOJ. I was the Outreach Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from 2008-2012, which included lecturing all across America on marijuana legalization, writing political analysis for HIGH TIMES Magazine, and producing over 1,000 hours of video content for The NORML Network.
  • Closet Smoker

    I was hoping to see someone write up something to this op-ed. No comments were allowed on the newspaper website. If they had………

  • Dr. B

    Just another “Old School” uneducated Law Enforcement official crying over the money. As soon as someone spouts off with Gateway Drug and all the other horse poop from the Refer Madness era, we all know it’s about the funding. Do yourselves a favor Minneapolis, don’t vote him back in office. Unless you like close minded law enforcement. I would prefer my Sheriff to worry about the child predators in my area that the feds just released.

    • Yuma55

      “As soon as someone spouts off with Gateway Drug and all the other horse
      poop from the Refer Madness era, we all know it’s about the funding.”

      Beautifully said

  • Sarijuana

    Good write-up. Some people will never face the facts, but in the near future they will inevitably be considered as the odd ones.

    • Dr. B

      Like :)

  • Acebass1

    Somebody doesn’t want to lose his cash cow

  • wowFAD

    Thanks, Russ… Great piece, as always. The only thing Stanek fears for is his funding.
    I almost spit Mt Dew all over my desk when I read the bit about PBR dealers in a shoot-out…
    Do hipsters have shoot-outs? I thought their favorite form of confrontation was the Snark-off.

  • Robert Dewayne King

    Izzat “Staneck ” or “Stedanko”

  • moldy

    This “sheriff” should be turned over to the FBI for investigation for embezzlement of private property. Laws are interpreted incorrectly for property seizures as they are meant for large scale activities. The “loophole” that they operate in should closed by a decent attorney or lawsuit. Next we need to pressure the “funders’ of this shit. I suppose it’s congress so it’ll be difficult however there is a push for austerity. Why not start here?

  • Ricky Ableidinger

    This Sherrif COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG

  • firetheliberals

    This dipsh $ t needs to watch drugs inc on tv. The rrug dealers in colorado do not bother to sell weed anymore, self-admittedly, because IT IS LEGAL..
    wake up bonehead ..

  • Mail4jimbob

    F#*king loser! Typical reefer madness bull$hit,

  • Art

    This would really be newsworthy except that it is the same old rhetoric. One might think that a reasonably intelligent leader would be able to make up something original.

    These folks are so invested in the status quo they never see the simboisis between organized crime and law enforcement. They continue to enable without ever seeing the evil they sow.

  • Stephen Weber

    Easy to explain his comments: he is up for re-election, and doesn’t want the job anymore. This should assure he isn’t voted in again.

    • Dr. B

      Yup, didn’t think of this one. It very well could be. :) Nice…

  • MrPC

    As voters become more knowledgeable about cannabis, people like the sheriff will either “evolve” and change their views on the subject or risk losing their jobs. People are starting to realize that marijuana prohibition benefits almost no one but the law enforcement community, and eventually will vote accordingly.

  • California Love

    If you need a legit connect email me at califirebud@live.com and ill give you a good deal.

  • Mark

    I have to wonder who or what entity is paying Sheriff Stanek to hold such ignorant views….the amount I am sure is 6 figures.

  • Cannabis Country

    This sheriff is a idiot and gives cannabis a bad name. Thankfully more and more people are getting properly educated about marijuana. The day of “Refer Madness” worries are gone. Most people know its safer than alcohol. If this guy is up for re-election he is in trouble.

  • Carris Welke

    This is why I dont like Minnesota. I lost my job thanks to their state govt, and had to pay my bills. Yet bc of some meth/pill heads, I was set up…I wasnt hurting ne1, I paid my bills and had medicine for myself. Yet I was given 5 yrs of probation. I took responsibility for having it. I had no choice, but I told the judge that others need to take responsibility for their own stuff instead of setting other ppl up so they can get off. Minnesota cops r corrupt. Most of them neways.

  • THE MAN

    Trust me, the only reason law enforcment hangs on to this marijuana thing is asset forfeiture and how much they glean from it to keep their little cottage industry going, overfull jails lead to new jails and jobs. A sherriff is an elected official, he clearly is on the wrong side of his constituents and what the public wants, FIRE HIM ! Even if he beleives that there is empirical evidence to support his stand he cannot justify criminalizing and imprisoning otherwise peaceful people mereley because he does’nt want to start another fire like alcohol and tobbacco. Time to hold these losers accountable who have never been able to do anything else but be a cop not to hard being an indifferent un-sympathetic slob that has no idea how devastating an arrest can be. When they do their DARE thing in the schools why are’nt they telling kids how harmful an arrest will be for them, clearly the most harmful aspect of marijuana is an arrest record. It has been estimated that a drug conviction will cost an estimated million dollars over an individuals lifetime, who bears the brunt of that? THE COMMUNITY

  • Gift

    Hey buddy how that gang unit POLICE CORRUPTION coming . You said the same shit in 2009. It won’t work again ,
    Oh how’s your kid by the way? If you had the brains to talk to him he might never have used hard drugs. But your to stupid to know that.
    You don’t make the law. Oh that’s right you don’t even know common sebse

  • Ggfft

    I will make it easy on you. Here’s a dare. How bout you have a debate with Leap if you think your way is better.
    I will guarantee you would be laughed out of town..

  • Mar’ Barn

    The sheriffs think inside of box w/ fear of ? It is cause of Godless society. It is possible to have well regulated system with Godly thinking of benefits of medically & religion use instead of recreational use that risk of abuse for safer society. The sky will bless the nation in Godly way.

    • wowFAD

      Not sure what’s worse: your grammar or the point you’re trying (and failing) to make.

    • Randall

      Abusing a harmless substance should not be a concern for safer society. Think before you speak….harmless or not?

    • Sean Patrick

      If you are against legal recreational use, then you are just as much of a scumbag as the prohibitionists like that idiot sheriff. In fact, you’re worse.

  • California Love

    If you need a legit connect email me at firecalibud@live.com

  • Mark Gilbert

    if anything is the gate way it is alcohol big time,,,

  • wishfulthinkn

    The only gateway cannabis is, is to the bed for most. No one in their right mind wants to see people stoned driving. Pot is not addictive, those that use pot don’t go around robbing and killing because of being on pot! This sheriff is just paranoid and delusional.

  • Guest

    I’d love to know Sheriff Stanek’s level of education.