This Independence Day, News2share co-producer Trey Yingst filmed a medical marijuana user being detained for possession and having his marijuana confiscated in Washington D.C. Given the large response to the video, we asked Major Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and 33-year law enforcement veteran for his take on the video and what we can learn from it. This is what he told us:
This video depicts a crystal clear example of the dysfunction and neglect of Congress in addressing marijuana policy. As twenty-three states, half of the country, now have legal medical marijuana policies in place for their citizens, congress has failed to keep up. Citizens like Mr. Price are barred from taking their state sanctioned medicine into federal parks, even on our Nation’s birthday, which is a celebration of independence and freedom from overreaching government.
This post is not intended to criticize the police or Mr. Price. It is intended to shed light upon the need for swift policy reform by the federal government. Citizens are working to educate themselves of the dos and don’ts of the medical marijuana policy spider web. The police want clear direction for their responsibilities in navigating the network of dysfunctional and problematic laws. And at the end of the day we end up with scenarios like this one.
In assessing the video and what transpired, I realize that this could have played out far worse if one or both the police officer and Mr. Price reacted differently. The first thing to remember is that despite how we feel about federal marijuana law and its lack of reform, marijuana remains illegal on federal property. This means that federal police officers are charged with enforcing that law, which can be anything from a physical arrest to confiscating the marijuana.
I give credit to Mr. Price for not resisting and being very cooperative. Some people believe that since he was cooperative, he should not have been taken to the ground. On the other side of that coin, police are taught to control people in a consistent manner, once they have decided to arrest. As a police training commander, I understand and support this philosophy. It is for the safety of all involved. The arrest process and mechanics are and should consistent, but as you see in the video, the level of force is dictated by the person being arrested. Mr. Price was cooperative, so the police officer allowed him to go down in a controlled manner. If Mr. Price had resisted, the taking to the ground would have been violent. I wish more police officers would perform their duties in this manner, as they were trained.
The police officer permitted Mr. Price to dictate more than the arrest procedure. The cooperative nature of Mr. Price played a significant role in the overall outcome, which was the confiscation of his medicine with no charges, not even a citation. The officer very well could have cited him or even carted him off to a detention facility where he would have remained for who knows how long. This is good advice to anyone being placed under arrest. Argue the merits of the arrest later by way of a formal complaint and/or in a court of law, not with the police officer. And as done here, have your arrest recorded.
So, what must we do in the interim? How can we improve upon this scenario until Congress wakes up? First, anyone possessing marijuana must realize that all marijuana is currently illegal on federal property, even in Colorado and Washington State. If you intend to visit federal parks or buildings, free yourself of all marijuana and paraphernalia and temporarily secure it in a safe legal place. Second, remember that if you smell like marijuana while visiting federal property, expect to be detained and searched. The odor of marijuana about your person is probable cause for arrest and search subsequent to arrest. Knowing the law is your best defense. Finally, let’s step up our action in forcing Congress to undo federal marijuana prohibition laws. In doing so, we not only free those who use marijuana from unwarranted persecution, but we free the police from being the enemy of the people. We free them to focus more on violent crime and homeland security. At federal checkpoints, they should only be searching for weapons and explosives, things possessed by people who intend to harm other people, especially on our Nation’s birthday. Make the calls and write the letters to your federal representative and force them to do what is undoubtedly right and just.
Major Neill Franklin (Ret)
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition