A ballot initiative to assign minor marijuana possession the lowest possible enforcement priority by Santa Barbara police will go before city voters in the upcoming November election. Supporters of the pot measure have collected more than enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot, but had hoped City Council would adopt the measure outright. Proponents of the measure, Sensible Santa Barbara, argue that the “war on drugs” has been lost, is a waste of money, and that enforcement of pot laws clogs the jails and criminal justice system with petty offenders who pose little threat to anyone. Police Chief Cam Sanchez argued that the measure places his officers in a catch-22 in which they’re not allowed to pursue criminal investigations triggered by marijuana possession complaints that could develop into something bigger. He also stated District Attorney Tom Sneddon had told him the measure was unconstitutional and unenforceable. Proponents dismissed these concerns as exaggerations and fabrications. Police say marijuana possession is already a low priority offense – first offenders getting $50 tickets – but insist such laws provide useful enforcement tools in dealing with drug dealers and others generating complaints from the community. The proposed measure would not protect recreational pot smokers who light up on public property or while driving a car.

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