Poor Training Of Narcotics Officers Contributes To Culture Of Ignorance

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In the last few weeks I have received several articles that concern an aspect of the Drug War that has not been addressed– the role of law enforcement training in unconstitutional policing.

These articles represent views on individual failures of the criminal justice system but ignore the systemic issues of how we train our law enforcement professionals based on our drug policy. The media does a disservice to America by focusing on individual failures while not addressing the institutional failures causes by prohibition.

In each of these articles the media reports how law enforcement stretches or violates the rule of law in order to find either drugs or money. In Hinton, Oklahoma, the District Attorney used private contractors to not just train officers, but also to conduct traffic stops in violation of the law while sharing profits with their company. DA Hicks notably admitted the  role policing for profit played by admitting:

“…he hired the contractors “because his drug task force had little success on drug stops” and because “he hoped to make money for his office from the drug stops because of a loss of federal funds.”

The article in the New York Times on the Texas “genital gate” scandal sadly places the blame on individual officers versus what I would consider rogue policy, but the best example of how law enforcement subverts the law and deliberately trains the police is this article , published in the California Narcotic Officer (CNOA).

There is always a financial incentive. (Click to enlarge)

There is always a financial incentive. (Click to enlarge)

The article has been making the rounds among California cannabis activists on the internet and is further inflaming the tensions between the  medical marijuana community and law enforcement.

But the history of the opposition to medical marijuana by the CNOA isn’t new. This isn’t the first article published that contains inaccuracies. Prior to the dissemination of this training article, the CNOA published its  2009 “white paper” which also concludes that marijuana is not a medicine.

This position paper parrots the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that has helped to contribute to what many medical researchers and other’s working in drug policy reform refer to as holding “science and public policy hostage to rhetoric and politics.”

Because of the influence the CNOA has had on legislation through lobbying  in Sacramento they have been able to subvert laws, direct public policy through their paid lobbyist, while using one-dimensional training to further their own goals.

Despite the overwhelming support for medical marijuana in California as evidenced by recent polling, public and legislative support, not to mention science, the CNOA continues to be the lead training organization that, by design, will not support or acknowledge the rule of law.

This opposition is disingenuous by not admitting to the many fiscal benefits that they receive by maintaining the status quo. The narcotic officers receive public money through their certified continuing education classes, (a lot according to their taxes as listed on the Attorney General Charitable Registry website) that contributes to training which undermines the intent of  medical marijuana laws.

Their courses are designed around the premise that there is no such thing as “medical marijuana” despite the growing body of academic research that shows the opposite.

“[Police] courses are designed around the premise that there is no such thing as “medical marijuana” despite the growing body of academic research that shows the opposite.”

Examples of training courses advertised by the CNOA include inflammatory titles such as “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Los Angeles” or the linked training article that is named “Initial Contacts with Persons Claiming Protections Under California’s Medical Marijuana Laws and Statues.” Through the author’s own words, his article shows the institutional bias of the CNOA as an entity, and the author as an individual.

It is this language that points to the perception that the narcotics officers are more interested in deliberately undermining the intent of the Compassionate Use Act by lumping all use as criminal in nature.

This leads to subverting the law instead of fairly enforcing it. No one is saying there are not abuses in the system, but what I do expect from law enforcement is professional training consistent with the rule of  law that both protects patients, while enhancing public safety.

In this 2012 training article published in the California Narcotic Officer magazine, the author who is one of the lead instructors for the CNOA providing statewide training on the investigation of medical marijuana stated:

“Knowing what I know now I’d definitely call this “medical marijuana thing” an epidemic that is infecting our society. This “infectious spillover” is even affecting us (law enforcement). Also think about the fact that the next generation of law enforcement in this state has grown up thinking marijuana is a [medicine].”

He further reflects that the term “medical marijuana” is in quotes because technically there is no such thing. He states “there is marijuana and medical marijuana laws, but no “medical marijuana” in a crude smokeable form or edibles made by a stoner.”

Now I will say that at the time of this article we did not have this revelation that smoked marijuana resulted in the complete remission of Crohn’s Disease in clinical patients in a recent study out of Israel, yet I know intuitively that even if this information was available it would still be ignored.

In reading the  article in its entirety I was struck by many issues including the potential violations of HIPAA, as well as many errors pointed out by Robert Raich, one of the leading attorneys in landmark cannabis litigation, when asked to comment on the legal aspects.

Raich validated my opinion of some of the legal issues that may contribute to unconstitutional policing in the field which has resulted in unlawful arrests and in the violation of search and seizure provisions by stating:

“Deputy Cimino goes so far as to mislead his readers among the CNOA membership by making misrepresentations that are demonstratively and completely false. For example, Cimino declares that hash and concentrated cannabis allegedly have no protection under California’s medical cannabis laws. In fact, an opinion reluctantly issued by none other than Attorney General Dan Lungren’s office shortly after the passage of Prop. 215 confirmed that concentrated cannabis is indeed legal pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act. Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s office subsequently issued an opinion reaching the very same conclusion.”

It is this rhetoric that continues to define the public policy discourse between law enforcement, legislators and drug policy reformers. The training provided by the CNOA contributes to the  logjam in Sacramento in the development of a statewide regulatory process that both supports public safety and protects patient access.

It is this style of training, as well as money spent on lobbying that has contributed to the perception of the narcotic officers as a monolithic organization more interested in maintaining its business interests versus the development of policy and training based on scientific research, and consistent with the laws of California.

PHOTO:Jamelle Bouie, photo cropped for size