Recently, producer Jefferson Drexler and I sat down with a friend of mine, Chris, who is a police officer here in Southern California to get a Christian police officer’s perspective on the challenges Christians and other people of faith are facing and will be facing in the days and years to come. Part one of our discussion revolved around California’s Prop. 57. And today, we shine a spotlight on Prop. 64: the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative.
Jefferson Drexler, e2 media network producer: The legalization of marijuana is a hot topic sweeping across the nation. Several states have disregarded the federal legal stance on it and have legalized it within their state borders. Proponents equate regulated marijuana with alcohol and tobacco – “vices” that can be regulated and taxed for the community’s overall good. Many also say that it is less harmful than alcohol, as people who get high from smoking a joint are too mellow to get behind the wheel of a car.
But, Chris… you’ve seen the truth.
Chris, Southern California Police Officer: First off, I think that there is greater truth in people who are willing to admit that they just want to get high versus someone with an actual medical need for a medicinal marijuana recommendation card.
Joel Fieri, Big Picture Podcast Host: It’s not just young adults. I know several people in their 50’s and 60’s who have their cards and claim to “medically need” their pot.
Chris: Right. It’s a complete scam.
But, from my perspective, I have no choice but to see marijuana as a gateway drug to harder drugs. It’s almost unheard of to talk to someone who is addicted to heroine, meth or cocaine and to learn that they went directly to the hard drug. Almost 100% of the time, they started their drug habit with pot.
I have written hundreds of affidavits in support of search warrants for all kinds of drug investigations, and marijuana is known by a lot of different names, in regards to street vernacular: cannabis, pot, Mary Jane, weed, ganja, even the devil’s weed. That’s right, “The Devil’s Weed” is actually written into official affidavits. And, as a Christian, I believe that marijuana is one of the many tools used by the devil, himself.
Jefferson: And ever since Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, pot has been labeled as a gateway drug. But, what do you tell all those people who claim that a vast majority of pot smokers stop there? They may have a beer and a joint… and that’s the end of it. They don’t end up addicted to heroine. How do you balance that equation? Or does it even matter?
Chris: Well, I often answer with a question of my own… especially to other Christians who might be contemplating to either vote to legalize marijuana or to use it themselves. How does smoking pot comport with the Bible? What would be the Biblical view on taking a substance into your body – a temple created by God – that will have mind-altering effects?
Joel: It’s not just mind altering, but mind damaging, too… right?
Chris: It absolutely is. There have been all kinds of studies. Scientists have learned that even up into your 30’s, your brain is still forming and its development can be hampered by smoking pot. It’s stereotypical, but there is truth to it as well… but, you don’t need to look any further than Sean Penn’s character, Jeff Spicoli, to see how pot can damage your brain.
Jefferson: But, if you look at recreational drug use as being similar to having a glass of wine, does that change the argument at all?
Chris: I think, as humans, we can justify a lot of things. But, that doesn’t make it the right thing. The fact is that with alcohol, you can have a glass of wine or a 12-ounce bottle of beer or a shot of harder alcohol and, because alcohol is so tightly regulated, odds are you can still be within the legal threshold of being allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. But, in the case of marijuana, this type of regulation simply doesn’t exist. The potency, or THC content, of a single joint will vary greatly depending on how it’s grown, what variety it is, and how it is ingested among a plethora of other variables.
So, depending on if it was smoked, vaped, or blended into edibles, the potency and the length of time that it stays in your system will vary greatly.
This is why states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon – states where recreational marijuana has already been made legal – have had to go back and make changes to their laws in order to reduce the likelihood of tragedies such as children mistakenly getting into their parents’ edibles and dying.
Joel: I have heard several stories coming out of Colorado, but what have police officers actually seen since the state has legalized recreational pot?
Chris: Instances of Driving While Intoxicated have certainly gone up. And, it’s a misnomer to assume that they are all under the influence of alcohol… many of them are intoxicated by pot. Roadway fatalities have increased.
And, just because marijuana is made legal, this does not mean that you’re going to have a decrease in criminal activity associated with it. In fact, there have been a number of armed robberies at Cannabis retail locations as well as medical dispensaries.
And that’s not exclusive to Colorado. Here in San Diego County, there have been multiple burglaries and armed robberies, including a shooting just this last year at a local medical dispensary.
So, wherever marijuana is legalized, there is definitely an increase in crime… even violent crime.
Jefferson: Then there is the argument of “Bad guys are going to do bad things. If they weren’t knocking off the dispensary, they would have been holding up the local 7-11.”
Then, the other side of this coin is to look at all the tax dollars. If we really did this right, and tax the snot out of it, we could really make a difference!
Chris: That’s a little Machiavellian, though, don’t you think? The ends justifying the means?
Joel: Not to mention the societal cost. Is it worth that societal price?
Jefferson: But, if we tax it enough, then it will make it just out of reach of the casual stoner and we would be able to raise money to do greater good with.
Chris: Well, but you also perpetuate the black market. If you tax it, there will be a black market so that it can be procured at a lesser price, and the government isn’t going to get their cut.
Joel: Plus, do the potential taxes raised outweigh the social cost of having a state full of stoned people? I’ve read that in Colorado, there are droves of people going there with no other purpose but to get legal pot. And now there are scores of “lost souls” on the streets who just want to get high all the time.
Chris: I think most residents of San Diego County have seen first hand the increase in the number of homeless people on our streets. And sadly, the vast majority of our homeless population have mental health related issues and/or chemical substance abuse issues. Often times, the two go hand-in-hand.
Jefferson: So, this crosses us over into the medical side of it. There has been study after study that reveal medical benefits of cannabis. From ease of pain or appetite control for cancer patients to aiding with glaucoma to PTSD… the list goes on and on. There are even reports of cannabis oil being used in a diffuser for children suffering from seizures, autism, ADHD, or anxiety issues… and the kids are seemingly miraculously cured. Is there any room in our society for regulated medical marijuana?
Chris: I believe that there is… or at least, there should be. Back in 1996, California was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana with or Compassionate Use Act. Sadly, this law was completely perverted in favor of the people who wanted to get rich and today, there are more people who have stuffed their pockets with cash by manipulating this law than there are people who have compassionately benefited from using marijuana.
And let’s be honest, there is no medicine that is smoked.
The Compassionate Use Act’s original intent was pure, but it is nearly impossible to regulate. Plus, if pot is truly effective enough to be referred to as medicinal, why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration begun regulating it? There is no set criteria for testing… not just potency, but its overall safety. Unlike regulated medicines, there are all sorts of variable components that go into growing marijuana that no one who ingests it really knows what they are putting into their system.
Jefferson: So, it all boils down to truth, right? There’s the original intent of something like the Compassionate Use Act… but then there is the truth of how it has been contorted… and thirdly, there is the law that you, as a police officer are called to uphold. How do you fight that battle over truth? If you see a scenario where on one side of the street are druggies getting high and on the other side of the street is a well-intended mom who wants to do whatever she has to do to make her sick child well again… what do you do?
Chris: That’s a great question. And, I have served several search warrants at homes where there was legitimate use of medical marijuana. You see, for medicinal purposes, the law allows for not only possession, use, and ingestion, but also cultivation in limited quantities. So, I have served search warrants where a neighbor noticed that someone on their block was growing pot – and cultivation of marijuana is a felony – and the person growing the weed has their paperwork all in order.
Now, at this point, I have to set the record straight… when we serve search warrants like this, it’s not like what the public thinks. There is no SWAT team or sirens and bullhorns. Most of the time, it’s people in civilian attire simply knocking at the door – very low key – speaking with the residents, going inside, and securing the premises. Many times, we are in and out in less than ten minutes. If people simply comply with the law, then there shouldn’t be any fear that law enforcement will make an arrest or things will get escalated.
Jefferson: I like that… if you simply obey the law, then you’re going to be fine.
Joel: We have reasonable laws, and if you don’t like them, you can always petition your legislatures.
But, getting back to our Christian perspective, we should be compassionate and try to be understanding, but we cannot allow ourselves to be intentionally naïve. That’s the thing that I see too much of these days. There is a fine line between trying to understand what the other side has to say and truth.
Now, I grew up with potheads… people who just wanted to get high. And, so much of what I see in the movement to legalize marijuana is that very thinly disguised desire to have a society where anyone can get stoned whenever they want.
The reasonableness of the movement gets lost in all this. There may be honest people with honest intentions behind it, but I have known far too many stoners who will lie and twist truths and push boundaries in order to get their pot.
That’s why I think we need to look at the truth – especially from those like you, Chris, who deal with this regularly – and consider the real social cost we will have to pay, regardless of any amount of tax dollars that might be brought in.
Jefferson: But, isn’t that the same logic that preceded and then was overturned with Prohibition?
Chris: I think that it’s interesting to note that as recently as this summer, our Federal Government maintained the classification status of marijuana. It has been, and continues to be, a schedule one controlled substance. And, words have meaning. It’s not a narcotic – that’s a completely different arena. But, as a schedule one controlled substance, it is defined as being addictive and has no known medical benefits.
Now, there is probably some room for argument in regards to its medical benefits, and some people maintain that it’s not addictive… and it’s true that there are people who can use it once or twice without growing addicted to it.
But I, personally, have known people who are absolutely addicted to pot… and I have seen it destroy families. So, there may be some analogy between marijuana and alcohol, but just because alcohol has been legal for several decades, this doesn’t mean that we should legalize a substance just so people can get stoned.
And, the truth is that you don’t see a whole lot of violent crime from alcoholics who are needing to get alcohol. Yeah, there are liquor stores that get robbed and people are killed in those robberies, but there is a significantly greater number of people who are willing to commit violent armed robberies so that they can get marijuana – not just for themselves, but so that they can sell it to other people. It’s a huge commodity.
Joel: Yeah, liquor store robberies aren’t usually for the liquor; it’s usually for the cash in the cash register.
Chris: Right… whereas marijuana, they want the cash, but they also want the product so that they can resell that.”
Again, let me stress that we, as responsible citizens, need to do our own due diligence and vote as our faith and our consciences lead us. With so much at stake for our communities, our state and our nation, as Christians we should do no less.
Join us next week as we continue our discussion with Chris, as he shines a Christian cop’s light on more vital issues.