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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Dispensing & Sales
of Medical Cannabis
Mayor Parris Warns
‘Major Enforcement Effort’
Less Than 48 Hours Later,
LANCASTER - With the 45-day Urgency Ordinance prohibiting the sale and dispensing of medical marijuana adopted in December set to expire, the Lancaster City Council voted to extend the prohibition at their January 12, 2010, meeting for an additional ten months and 15 days.
Mayor Rex Parris opened the public hearing and relinquished the floor to City Attorney Dave McEwen for his staff report wherein the city attorney explained that the council’s adoption of the proposed extension that evening would set the new expiration at December 7, 2010, for a total moratorium time-span of just under one year.
After McEwen concluded his report Parris opened the floor for comments from the public. Lancaster resident Clarence Johnson addressed the council first and explained that he was a medical marijuana patient without a driver’s license, which made it difficult for him to travel to the San Fernando Valley to obtain his medicine.
Johnson reminded the council that despite their prohibition on dispensaries, marijuana was easily had on the streets of Lancaster illegally, and then shared his opinion that the City’s ban was “ridiculous.”
“Whether it’s a dispensary or whether it’s someone in an alley somewhere, there’s people selling marijuana in Lancaster,” said Johnson.
David Paul, candidate for mayor at Lancaster’s upcoming April municipal election, followed Johnson. Paul did not defend medical marijuana but argued instead for the repeal of marijuana prohibition as part of a complete end to our nation’s failed War on Drugs.
“It’s not that drugs are good, it’s that the ‘War on Drugs’ is worse,” said Paul.
Paul said marijuana was the “least harmful substance that people use to alter their moods,” then added when a young person smokes marijuana and discovers it isn’t the devil it is made out to be, adults lose credibility, and from this, young people can be expected to think adults have also lied about the drugs that are actually dangerous, like cocaine and alcohol, enticing them to try them too.
“Let’s remove marijuana from the list of terrible things and call it what it is. It’s just a plant that people have used medicinally for thousands of years,” added Paul.
Following Paul to the lectern was January Ohelo who informed the council she appeared month-after-month to speak on-behalf of those that were unable to attend and speak for themselves.
Citing Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act, approved by voters in 1996, Ohelo informed the council the law states marijuana may be used for any serious medical condition for which it provides relief, not just to alleviate the suffering of those dying of AIDS or cancer.
Ohelo then rattled-off a litany of ailments from which marijuana has been known to provide relief to include diabetes, nightmares, bulimia, alcoholism, tobacco dependency, carpal tunnel syndrome and Hodgkin’s disease.
Instead of Lancaster running away from the issue by implementing a moratorium, Ohelo said she preferred Lancaster take the lead, stand-up, and explain to children, “This is our Nyquil, this is our valium, this is our vicodin…and this is our medicinal cannabis, and this is all off-limits.”
Ohelo suggested the council take a look into their own medicine cabinets when they get home that evening because teenagers today have been known to steal their parents’ prescribed laboratory-engineered dope to catch a cheap and dangerous high.
Melanie Coker asked the council for local regulation of collectives, to include her own. She then took issue with another local collective that drew attention to their operation by hosting a grand opening party and explained to the council her philosophy that collectives should not seek public attention, but rather operate quietly and discreetly.
Barbara Mayzels recommended the council not implement prohibition and instead establish a set number of dispensaries that may operate in Lancaster and then regulate them appropriately as the City does with the dangerous and deadly vices of tobacco and alcohol.
Referencing the “In God We Trust” motto displayed behind the council, Mayzels offered Lancaster’s pols advice on how to develop the political courage to address medical marijuana. Mayzels advised the council, “Don’t be afraid, roll away from the rocks, because, ‘In God You Trust.’”
Comment from the public concluded with Mayzels remarks and Parris called for discussion from the council, of which there was none, except by Parris. The mayor reaffirmed his commitment to provide access to marijuana for seriously ill people saying, “We can work harder to