Just listen to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand\’s epic anti-cannabis rant, given at a press conference two days after his deputies gunned down an armed pot dealer in a shootout on the streets of New Orleans:
For those of you too lazy to watch, Normand is incensed that the media is bothering to inquire about the role of his deputies in the shooting, as witnesses reported that the victim, 25-year-old Desmond Willis, fired at officers after he was pulled over:
\”We are thinking about decriminalizing marijuana, and we think all of this s*** is going to go away when we do, so, hello?\” Normand said. \”The havoc it will wreak on our streets will be insurmountable.\”
Whew, that is some grade-A Reefer Madness lingo right there. Sheriff Normand\’s bout of eloquent hysteria would\’ve made Harry Anslinger proud. Good thing the CBS news crew in New Orleans did its homework and squashed this uninformed claim where it stood:
\”In fact, crime stats in Colorado shows both violent crimes and property crimes are down since pot became legal, and [Kevin] Caldwell [executive director of pro-legalization group Commonsense NOLA] said part of that is because of the jobs and economic boost the marijuana market has created for the state.\”
Indeed. I live by South Broadway in Denver, near at least a dozen legal Cannabis dispensaries, and the streets are noticeably free of havoc, insurmountable or otherwise. After nearly fifteen years of legal medical marijuana and nearly sixteen months of legal recreational pot, Colorado is decidedly not the crime-ridden, degenerate wasteland that prohibitionists hoped it would be. Regulation works, however imperfect it may be, and it can help prevent deadly black market-related shootouts like the one Normand\’s deputies were involved in.
It\’s not surprising that a good-ol\’-boy sheriff like Normand blamed Cannabis for the shootout; like the DEA and many other police departments across the country, he views drug-related crime as a symptom of the drug itself rather than of the draconian laws against it. It\’s pretty simple: pistol-wielding street dealers have no place in a legal, regulated Cannabis market.
Unlike the sheriff – who wondered quite loudly at his press conference \”[w]hy are we not talking about the drug dealing!?\” – I don\’t wonder why Willis was dealing pot; the illegal drug racket is an alluring option to those who grow up in a world of poverty, limited or no education, and few other options for making a living.
Instead, I wonder why nobody is talking about the seemingly effortless acquisition of firearms by anyone and everyone who wants them. After all, it was the obvious and deadly threat presented by the firearm, not the pot, that threatened the lives of the deputies and the public, in this case and many others like it.
I wonder if Normand\’s office has done any investigations into how these drug dealers are acquiring their guns and how the flow might be stopped, or at the very least combated? If anything is causing \”insurmountable havoc\” on American streets, it is the deadly combination of arcane, simplistic anti-drug laws and an unchecked, and seemingly unscrutinized, underground firearms trade. These two phenomena are responsible for more \”drug-related\” violence than any amount of pot ever. Our inability to discuss and engage these two huge oversights in public policy is what ultimately provides the impetus for broad-daylight shootouts like the one in New Orleans, which could have very easily claimed the lives of law officers as well as innocent bystanders.