Texas police could soon be patrolling for marijuana in armored vehicles
Imagine sitting at a stoplight on your way home from work and seeing a military style armored vehicle cross through the intersection. This could soon be a normal sight for residents in Texas and other states across the country.
A number of police departments are making the claim that marijuana and methamphetamine are equally dangerous substances which must be combated, and the use of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) are going to help them in their battle. Most sheriff’s departments are asking for these vehicles specifically to combat marijuana.
A recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has shown that police are asking for advanced military vehicles for police departments nationwide, who have claimed drugs (marijuana included) are too hard to battle without them. Of the law enforcement departments requesting the MRAPs, nearly 25 percent of the departments state that they need them to fight drugs, although none detailed how they will use the vehicles to do so.
The Washington Post reports that nearly half a billion dollars of military gear was given to local law enforcement by the Pentagon in 2013 alone.
Why are police departments able to receive military equipment? This due to the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which allows for police departments to request surplus military items.
According to Mother Jones, between January of 2012 and October of 2014 over 450 documented requests were submitted from police departments all over the country requesting MRAPs. Of those requests, 49 came from law enforcement departments in Texas. A few of those departments include Austin County Sheriff’s Department, Brownsville Police Department, Comal County Sheriff’s Department, Garland Police Department, Midland County Sheriff’s Department, and Texarkana Police Department.
Kent Holcomb, police chief in Nocona, Texas told Mother Jones when asked about his request for a MRAP, “You just never know from day to day what your job is going to consist of. The world is changing. With the way people are acting, you can’t predict anything.”
Mother Jones also reports that for Sheriff Terry Pickering of Bastrop County, Texas, a tactical vehicle would calm his fears of the proliferation of firearms—including, it seems, guns that local citizens own legally. “Subjects may sometimes be armed with high powered rifles and handguns,” he wrote, “as most of our citizens own rifles due to a long tradition of hunting and sport.”
Heather Fazio, the Texas Director of Marijuana Policy Project, told Texas Cannabis Report that she found the news disturbing.
“It’s quite disturbing to see our local peace officers morphing into combat soldiers as they cling to marijuana prohibition. They seem to want to increase the level of warfare in our communities rather than admitting that marijuana prohibition has failed. No amount of heavy artillery will change that.”
She adds, “The most responsible approach would be to reform laws and regulate marijuana like alcohol. This puts the market in the hands of legitimate business owners rather than cartels and gang members.”
Already this year hundreds of thousands of marijuana growing operations, many assumed to be ran by drug cartels, have been uprooted by Texas law enforcement.
The biggest find so far in 2015 has been a plot of land near the Texas-Oklahoma border in Lipscomb County where more than 109,000 marijuana plants were discovered.
Local and state authorities in Texas spent an estimated $746 million combined on arresting marijuana offenders in 2013.
With a total of 71,761 arrests, it is estimated that it costs an average of $10,400 for each marijuana case that goes through the legal system.
Renee Cummings contributed to this article.