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Re: Statewide Regulation of Cannabis Overcomes Landmark Legislative Hurdle

Early in 2008, The Political Observer spoke with the three Republican candidates for the 36th Assembly District – then Palmdale Councilman Steve Knight, then AVC Trustee Steve Fox, and Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford - as part of a conversation series leading up to the June 08 Republican Primary Election.

In our interview with Knight, then an activity-duty Los Angeles Police Office, The Political Observer brought up the “War on Drugs” and sought the veteran lawman’s perspective.

We asked the seventeen-year-plus police officer if he thought the “War on Drugs” could be won by the government, to which Knight said, “I don’t know that it could ever be won.”

Knight quickly added he did not condone drug use, and said when a community had rampant illegal drug sales, “that area tends to go downhill, quickly.”

Knight continued, “If someone told me the federal government should take over marijuana sales, or even rock cocaine, or whatever they want to do, it doesn’t change the fact that the people who do drugs have to have a mechanism, they have to get money to buy their drugs. It doesn’t change that. If the federal government sells rock cocaine, I still have to go burglarize your house to get enough money to buy my rock.”

Knight said he considered marijuana a “progressive drug” for some, “but not for everybody.” Knight added, “A lot of people smoke marijuana, and it doesn’t have any affect on how they live life or anything. And I don’t think marijuana is the devil.”

The current Assemblyman, and then-Palmdale City Councilman, said the anti-marijuana bias in contemporary society is cultural. He used as an analogy German culture, and harkened back to his days stationed in Germany while in the U.S. Army where he discovered German youth held their liquor better than he did as an adult at 19 years-old, because, Knight said, the German youth had grown-up with alcohol as part of their culture, and may have had wine with dinner as a teenager, where in American culture, alcohol consumption was for adults only.

“I think if you change marijuana from being illegal to legal, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to smoke marijuana that are going to use it for a different reason, other than a social drug,” said Knight.

The Political Observer asked Knight how advocates for marijuana-legalization differed from the alcohol-industry’s (Anheuser-Busch, Jack Daniels, etc,) professional lobbyists.

“I think it’s hypocritical,” said Knight. “And that’s my only excuse [in support of cannabis prohibition] is there’s culture; that we are against marijuana, but we’re for drinking. But if you went out and had twelve beers and drove, or if you smoke a joint, you would drive better after smoking a joint. And I’m not saying you should drive on either. It’s a little hypocritical; we talk about drunk driving so much.”

The Political Observer asked the lawman if he thought it a wise-use of jail space and tax dollars to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders (i.e., those arrested for possession, under the influence).

“No,” answered Knight.

The Political Observer remarked, “That’s not a very conservative value.”

“It isn’t, it isn’t,” said Knight. “I want people that are directly [criminally] affecting your life behind bars.”

Knight said in his opinion, the worst crime in the world, beside the crimes that hurt or kill a loved one, like rape and murder, was residential burglary. The residential burglar that stole family heirlooms, a treasured wedding ring handed-down over generations, or other precious irreplaceables in order to buy drugs deserved to be “locked-up” before the individual that bought drugs with honest money, and was arrested on an [non-DUI] under-the-influence charge only.

“I have to be pragmatic about this; I have to say, ‘We only have so much space. Who do we want in there?’”

Knight said police officers do a lot of “11-550 arrests” – under the influence – and the arrestees “take up space in jail.

On under-the-influence-only arrestees, Knight said, “Fine them. Do something to them that would penalize them, but leave the jail space for this [expletive] burglar.”

The Political Observer reiterated to Knight how out-of-step he was versus the conservative party-line in his “War on Drugs” philosophy, then AVPO asked how much of that was due to his experience as a police officer, to which Knight responded, “Probably 100% of it.”

Knight said in his over seventeen-years as a lawman, he had arrested roughly 20 burglars, “and none of them are in jail today on any of those crimes.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio recording of the Steve Knight interview on 21 April 08 is on-file at The Political Observer.

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