A clueless police chief was practically laughed out of the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.
The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate turned into a comedy of errors, courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. The gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.
Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.
At one point, Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-MD 20) questioned this power, repeatedly cited by criminal justice policy experts as a primary cause for racial inequities in arrest rates, asking Sheriff Lewis about his own ability to distinguish good guys from bad. He then cited a 1999 New York Times article that said of the sheriff, “Black, black, black, black. It is what Mike Lewis sees.”
“The official testimony of the Chiefs’ Association saddens me as a police commander,” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) board member Captain Leigh Maddox (Ret.). “My motto has always been ‘Respect the police. Demand reform.’ Today many police gave testimony that was so clearly flawed it no doubt caused a lot of people to lose respect for a profession of which I am proud to have been a part. I continue to remain hopeful they will come around.”
“I’m not going to get into the safety or danger of marijuana–the destructive policy of prohibition is what we’re discussing here today,” said LEAP Executive Director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “But any college student can tell you no person has ever died of a marijuana overdose.
“If police don’t bother to educate themselves before testifying before the state Senate on the issue, how is anyone supposed to take seriously their commitment to establishing the best marijuana policy — not for the funding it brings their departments in asset forfeiture and federal grant revenue — but for the people of Maryland?” Franklin asked.
“I apologize for the information I provided concerning the deaths,” the chief said in a statement, reports Sean Welsh at The Baltimore Sun. “I believed the information I obtained was accurate but I now know the story is nothing more than an urban legend. This does not take away from the other facts presented in opposition to legalization or the good work of the Maryland Chiefs and Maryland Sheriffs associations.”
Photo of Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop: Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun
Source: steveelliott’s blog