The decision by the Seattle Police Department to hand out Doritos at Hempfest made national headlines, but ideally this kind of interaction with the police shouldn’t be so rare as to be considered newsworthy. The fact that it made national headlines highlights how destructive the war on drugs – in particular the war on pot- has been to many Americans’ relationship with law enforcement.
In my perfect world the police would be primarily focused on crimes with actual victims. They should be trying to stop murder, theft, assault, etc. The police should be trying to stop people from hurting other people. Almost everyone should see them as exclusively a positive force.
The drug war has dramatically distorted this focus. The police now spend a lot of time on victimless drug crimes. In 2011 there were over 750,000 marijuana related arrests with most arrests just for possession. By comparison, there were only about 540,000 arrest for all violent crime.
Instead of the police being purely a positive protective force, the war on pot has made the police a real danger and threat to millions of adults who are basically harmless. Marijuana prohibition gave people who are otherwise peaceful and law-abiding a reason to avoid, fear or even hate the police simply because they choose to occasionally smoke a plant.
The stunt at Hempfest proves how needlessly adversarial marijuana prohibition has made interactions between the police and millions of Americans. Once marijuana is legalized there is no logical reason police shouldn’t get along very well with cannabis users. Unlike alcohol, even heavy consumption of marijuana rarely ever results in aggressive behavior. After legalization police can go back to focusing on real crime and otherwise peaceful tokers should have no reason to avoid them.