Campus police chief Foster doesn’t know pot (OP/ED)

March 09, 2004

Ed Rosenthal, The Lumberjack

It was unfair to HSU’s police chief Robert Foster to ask him to comment on either the law or society’s relationship to marijuana. [Times Standard 2/19] His remarks showed how ill equipped he is to make any comments regarding the prohibition issue. First, he has been mis-educated by his police peers and has no other experience with the sociology of drug use.
(Check out The CA Narcotics Police Officers Assn. Web site –Our Policies.) More importantly, his attitudes, typical of many law enforcement personnel, are colored by his fear that medical marijuana opens the gate to legalization of all marijuana. Members of the criminal justice system are opposed to medical marijuana because they figure it is the gateway to unemployment for the prohibition industry. Foster’s failure to acknowledge his self-interest in maintaining the drug laws is very telling.

From his very first statement Foster shows his ignorance. There is no indication that U.S. residents use more drugs than residents of other industrial societies, or for that matter, less developed societies. This statement, which is patently false, was meant to upset the reader. The article is composed with a very radical disingenuous attitude towards drug use. If Foster is concerned with health and saving lives he would be spending more energy discouraging tobacco and alcohol use, rather than concentrating his efforts on marijuana. The government’s own DAWN reports, which have been reporting drug statistics for over 35 years, have never noted a death from use of marijuana.

The long-term effects Foster describes, lung cancer, memory loss, lowered resistance to infections and disrupted reproductive systems are proof that marijuana causes hysteria in people opposed to legalization. The government has been trying to prove that marijuana is harmful for 20 years. Instead the studies show that it is very safe, has many medicinal uses and often leads to a better quality of life.

The main danger that marijuana poses to the overwhelming number of users the chief points out, is its illegality. In other words, he’s getting paid to try to bust you if you have even a passing acquaintance with marijuana. Even though he knows an arrest could ruin your life, he’s sorry, it’s all in a night’s work.

The chief’s article was the ultimate act of the tail wagging the dog. The university is home to professors who have studied the issue, thought about it and have some real insights about drug use and harm reduction. Rather than seeking an opinion from someone who knows something about the subject, the chief was called. It’s apparent he did not consult them before he wrote his piece.

Foster’s only real expertise and training regarding drugs is how to recognize controlled substances, to arrest the owners, buyers and sellers, and how to testify in court. That’s fine – he’s supposed to enforce the law. But he steps beyond his knowledge when he suggests himself as an expert on policy. Foster probably knows less about drugs and drug use than the average Humboldt student.

If Foster thinks Prop 215 or SB 420 are ambiguous regarding the legality of medical marijuana he has less of an understanding of these important California laws than the average citizen. It’s truly dangerous to have such an incompetent individual in such a responsible position, where he can affect so many peoples’ lives.

No law should be more harmful to individuals and society than the behavior it’s attempting to regulate. Further, no law should be instituted that will be flouted so widely that it is treated with contempt. From any perspective, criminal, economic, sociological, constitutional, even national security the marijuana laws cause much more harm than the herb. There are 750,000 arrests for marijuana every year, 100,000 people are incarcerated right now, it costs about $30 billion a year to try to enforce. Yet anyone who wants to purchase can find a willing seller. The laws are unenforceable. The tragedy of the human toll is incredible. It’s apparent, especially in Humboldt, that the most harmful aspect of marijuana use is the law. Civilly regulating it is the best harm reduction paradigm for society.

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