|Madison Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Kovak wants to legalize weed|
The war on drugs, specifically the battle against marijuana, has been an “abject failure”. So says the Police Chief of Madison, Wisconsin, Mike Koval.
Koval is an officer of the streets, having shot up from the rank of Sergeant all the way to Police Chief with no stops in between. During his three decades in uniform, Koval has become convinced that the fight against cannabis is a massive drain on resources, and only serves as a distraction from the truly harmful drugs, like heroin.
“We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval told the State Journal in an interview last week.
This dude gets it.
He rightfully states that the massive cannabis-related tax revenues being raked in by Colorado and Washington could go a long way in his own state of Wisconsin to help prevent substance abuse before it has a chance to take root.
In the same interview with the State Journal, Chief Kovak regretfully acknowledged that his own officers in the Madison Police Department have fallen deep into the same disturbing pattern that we have seen in cities in all regions of the country.
Even though the use of cannabis in the college town of Madison is split evenly among whites and blacks, blacks are 12 times more likely to be arrested for weed in Madison, Wisconsin than whites. This racial disparity in arrests is the 5th worst in the entire country.
From another perspective, black people make up just 7% of the total population of Madison, but over 50% of all marijuana arrests involve African Americans.
UW-Wisconsin Madison professor Pamela Oliver says that the divide between the races does not just stop with the arrest of a suspect. “There’s a high disparity in arrests, there’s a high disparity in the … ratios of convictions to arrests … and there’s a disparity in getting prison, rather than probation, after you’re convicted,” Oliver told the State Journal.
Democratic State Congresswoman Melissa Sargent proposed new legislation in January of this year proposing that the state take the police chief’s advice and legalize recreational cannabis use statewide as soon as possible.
“This is a tide that’s turning in our country,” Sargent said regarding her controversial cannabis bill, “It’s not a question of whether this will happen, it’s when.”
Her optimism should be applauded, as should the bravery it takes to step out in favor of cannabis for people in the positions of elected politician and local police chief.
In the meantime, however, Sargent has failed to form any sort of bipartisan support for her proposal in a state which has both its senate and congress under the firm control of a dominantly conservative Republican Party.
Many police chiefs, with a tape recorder or mic in front of their face, would do their best to skew the damning numbers, or minimize the accuracy of such stats. Police Chief Kovak simply admitted that it is a “sad commentary” on the way the criminal justice system treats cannabis users and minorities.