About a week ago, the Burlington Free Press’ Jess Aloe produced a thought-provoking number on the many police officers who testified — and lobbied — in their uniforms during this year’s debate on legalizing marijuana. Today, there’s a report from The Intercept that may shed some light on the situation. It certainly raises some questions, at the very least.
First, the Freeploid.
Uniformed police officers often make their opinions heard through the Vermont Police Association, which pays a lobbyist, or other police associations, but they also speak to legislators directly, wearing the uniforms of communities that may have yet to take an official stance on an issue.
… “There have been more police here as lobbyists this year, and I think it’s unusual,” [the Vermont ACLU’s Allen Gilbert] said. “The lobbying seems much more active — it’s much more organized.”
And now, The Intercept reports that police and prison guard groups are spending heavily to defeat a California ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, and draws a line between that activity and “the revenue streams to which they have become… addicted.”
Drug war money has become a notable source of funding for law enforcement interests. Huge government grants and asset-seizure windfalls benefit police departments, while the constant supply of prisoners keeps the prison business booming.
Do I need to connect the dots?
According to the report, California law enforcement got $181 million in asset forfeitures from marijuana cases between 2002 and 2012. And,
As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014, pot legalization in Washington state led asset forfeiture proceeds to go up in smoke.
In Vermont, as in California, police officials insist they oppose marijuana because of public-safety considerations, not self-interest. However, it’s worth asking: How much have Vermont police agencies received in pot-related asset forfeitures and federal grants?
How much have they gained from marijuana prohibition? How much money do they stand to lose if it’s legalized?
There’s your follow-up story, Jess.