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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