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Minnesota Representative Carly Melin says police addicted to drug money

Money and weapons seized by DEA
Money and weapons seized by DEABy Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota Representative Carly Melin has been trying to negotiate medical marijuana laws for her state, but has run into an impasse. In an apparent misunderstanding in how laws are made, Governor Mark Dayton said he would only sign off on a medical marijuana bill if law enforcement was on board. Of course, they're not on board.

Officials in law enforcement have no special scientific or medical knowledge on the subject. What they do know, though, is there's a lot of money in keeping marijuana illegal. Between federal "Drug War" money and asset forfeiture laws, they stand to lose a lot with the legalization of marijuana. That is exactly why they should not have a say, they can't help but be biased.

Under the state’s forfeiture law, police in Minnesota seized approximately $8.3 million of cash and property in 2012 alone, according to the Office of the State Auditor. That's a big hit in the wallet. Police in Washington are complaining about lost revenue due to legalization, with one county whining that they had to cut their drug task force budget by 15 percent. They always forget to mention how much their enforcement requirements were also cut when the most popular illicit drug became legal.

It's maddeningly insane to even ask what a law enforcement officer's opinion is on marijuana legalization. It is literally none of their concern. Their job is to enforce the law, not write it. Researchers and doctors are the only ones with the proper data for deciding legality. Police budgets should not be a contributing factor to this discussion at all.

The law enforcement coalition that met with Melin brought a 10-page paper full of bullet points with supposed public safety concerns, but the only objection voiced at the meeting wasn't put in print in the paper. The only thing that law enforcement representatives were worried about was the impact to police budgets. Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), explicitly told Melin that he was worried that any form of legalization, medical or recreational, could lead to massive reductions in federal grants. He stressed that these grants are an important funding source for many police agencies.

"The public has long questioned law enforcement’s motivation behind its staunch opposition to medicinal marijuana, and suspected that a threat to the law enforcement’s revenue stream through forfeiture laws creates an inherit conflict," Melin wrote in a letter to the Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman accusing law enforcement of overstepping its bounds in advancing policy positions.