Why Police Departments Fight Cannabis Legalization

Legalizing cannabis is a fight that has been ongoing here in Minnesota for many years. The current governor, Mark Dayton, has stated numerous times that he would only sign a legalization bill if law enforcement signed off on it. That’s a great cop out because law enforcement agencies are unlikely to support any effort to legalize cannabis. Their reasoning is simple, legalizing cannabis would cut into their revenue:

MILL CREEK, Wash.—A drug task force in Washington’s Snohomish County has historically been funded in part by cash, cars, houses and other assets seized from marijuana purveyors. But with recreational pot becoming legal in the state, this funding is going up in smoke.

Snohomish’s 22-officer drug-fighting operation, one of 19 such task forces in the state, brought in about $200,000 from forfeitures in marijuana cases in 2012—15% of its funding that year; the haul has exceeded $1 million in years past. The task force has a piece of land, seized from a pot grower, where it stores seized vehicles awaiting auction and trims with a riding mower confiscated in a drug bust.

The county’s task force has already slashed its projected funding for this year by more than 15%, partially because of a decline in revenue from asset forfeitures in pot cases, said task force Commander Pat Slack. That will mean less money for overtime, training and new equipment, said Mr. Slack, a vocal opponent of legalization.

With marijuana legalized for those at least 21 years old in Washington later this year and in Colorado as of Jan. 1, law-enforcement agencies in those states expect to lose millions in revenue gained from assets seized from growers and dealers.

Cannabis prohibition is a racket. Through civil forfeiture laws police departments make large amounts of money off of the war on unpatentable drugs. The incentive of revenue ensures police departments will generally oppose any form of cannabis legalization.

Government decrees tend to have an air of permanency to them. Nobody should find this surprising because most government decrees become revenue generators for the state. Whether violating decrees result in direct extortion (fines and confiscation of property), enslavement (prison), or coercion (being forced to work as a snitch for the state) the state always manages to turn its decrees into profit. Once something becomes a revenue generator it’s difficult to convince those profiting from it to destroy it.