Houston Chief of Police: Marijuana prohibition is a failure
In an interview with Cultural Baggage, Houston Chief of Police Charles McClelland said that marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy.
During the interview, McClelland highlighted pilot programs within his department and others in the state to reduce marijuana possession penalties for first-time offenders.
Earlier this year the District Attorney race which encompassed Houston featured a public policy battle over who had the better plan to change how the county deals with marijuana offenders. While proponents of marijuana policy change argued that Democratic challenger Kim Ogg had the better policy because it encompassed more than just first time offenders, incumbent Republican Devon Anderson won re-election with her more restricted policy.
McClelland also discussed the necessary role of the federal government in changing national drug laws, saying that because many state-legal marijuana businesses cannot safely use banks and because illegal markets still exist in most states, those markets can still flourish by undercutting the dispensaries. He also acknowledged the racism inherent in drug enforcement practices which results in the incarceration of a disproportionate number of young black men.
The 30-minute interview covering a variety of law enforcement issues including the rights of protesters, the immense power of drug cartels and why so many Americans use substances aired today, at 4:30 pm CT, on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston and streamed online.
“It’s not uncommon to hear these sorts of comments from police on the street,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP, a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the War On Drugs. “What is less common is to see a top administrator choose to speak out about what’s right despite major financial incentives – in the form of federal grants and asset forfeiture proceeds – to protect the status quo.
“I salute Chief McClelland for standing up for social justice,” Franklin said. “He exemplifies the best of American policing today.”
Joining the department in May 1977, McClelland worked his way up through the ranks, from rookie to assistant chief in 1998, before being asked to step in as acting chief. A graduate of the University of Houston–Downtown, University of Houston–Clear Lake, and the FBI National Academy, he oversaw the department’s implementation of tasers and a real-time crime analysis program.
When racial tensions at the city’s Northeast Patrol Division boiled over in 1992, McClelland and Capt. Mike Thaler were brought in to remedy discrimination complaints by black patrolmen. As an assistant chief, he has been at the center of some of HPD’s most controversial incidents of recent years, one being the approval of the August 2002 raid on a Kmart parking lot where nearly 300 bystanders were arrested during a crackdown on street racing. McClelland later testified he never saw a subsequent memo authorizing the arrests of spectators as well as racers. He also oversaw the department’s implementation of tasers and a real-time crime analysis program, which allows for improved overall crime tracking and analysis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Known as a meticulous investigator, McClelland was brought into one patrol division to quell racial tensions.
Cultural Baggage is a radio show hosted by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) speaker and former Air Force Security Policeman, Dean Becker.