Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

March 30, 2010
Pro-legalization ad likely first salvo in cop vs. cop pot debate

Jeffrey Studdard is a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. His dad, a former Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, was an "officer in the classroom" educating students about risks of drugs and alcohol.

Now Studdard is the voice of the first campaign commercial for the newly-minted November ballot initiative seeking to tax and legalize marijuana in California. The spot is airing in Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area media markets.

"Like many other cops and law enforcement professionals, I've seen firsthand that the current
approach on cannabis is simply not working," Studdard declares in the ad, which can be heard on the Control & Tax Cannabis California 2010 site. "It's led to violent drug cartels, dealers in our schools and our streets, and cost millions of dollars - without reducing consumption."

Studdard goes on to say: "That's why cops support Tax Cannabis 2010, the initiative to control and tax cannabis.It will provide billions to fund what matters, and allow police to focus on violent crime. It's time to control it, and tax it."

The radio spot is the opening advertising pitch by legalization advocates seeking to convince the public that sanctioning pot use for California adults over 21 enjoys law enforcement backing. So far the "law enforcement officials across California" the campaign has lined up include retired Superior Court Judge James P. Gray of Orange County and Kyle Kazan, a retired Torrance Police Officer.

But expect thunderous opposition from much of California law enforcement.

The California Peace Officers Association has already vowed to lead opposition to the measure. And a Jan. 12 legislative hearing on the subject held by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, drew a packed a room full of cops determined to prevent legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

"I can tell you categorically that legalization of marijuana will only increase the challenges facing us," San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer testified at the time. "To balance the budget on the backs of the harm caused by illegal intoxication is mind-boggling."

But the opening ad shows that the pro-legal cannabis campaign is determined to advance its own public safety argument.

The campaign's public safety benefits fact sheet argues that legalizing marijuana in California will weaken Mexican drug cartels, save on incarceration costs for pot offenses and help police redirect resources to target violent crime.

Expect cop vs. cop advertising through November. The pro-legalization forces will have the biggest budget. But the loudest police voices will likely come on the "no" side. 

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