Public Comment

New Police Chief’s Stance on Marijuana

By Maris Arnold
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

In the article on the approval by the City Council of former Seattle top cop Michael Meehan as Berkeley’s new police chief (Daily Planet, Nov. 12–18), Mr. Meehan is quoted as saying with reference to Seattle’s voter-approved policy of making marajuana arrests the lowest police priority, “I don’t want to send a message to kids that drug use is ok.” That wasn’t just a personal opinion. That was a professional judgment. Moreover, a majority of Seattle voters thought differently and passed the ordinance but Meehan was against them and it.  

  We have a similar policy in Berkeley. If Meehan still thinks the same way, then from the onset of his Berkeley tenure, he is out of step with the majority of voters here. Councilperson Worthington is quoted as saying of Meehan: “It will take some time for him to fit into Berkeley, but hopefully, he will acclimatize.” That “hopefully” is pitiful. 

  Does Meehan’s annual salary of $205,400 plus a $500,000 housing loan from our generous city, begin before or after he fits in and acclimatizes or is that what on-the-job training gets these days? 

  The article also states that Meehan tried to make changes to Seattle’s ordinance by indicating rising drug-crime rates “although the data showed the opposite.” So then, he’s not a reliable source.  

  Even more troubling is that while Seattle’s lowest priority law did result in a decrease in marijuana arrests and prosecution, there was “a racial disparity in the number of arrests.” Meaning, institutionalized racism strikes again! This is what our Council has brought us. 

  More telling is Dominic Holden, Seattle writer and editor of an alternative newsweekly’s assessment of Meehan: “a police chief cut from the mold of the Bush-era drug policy.” Holden is quoted saying that he’s surprised that Berkeley choose Meehan. I myself am disappointed but not surprised, given the mayor and the majority on the city council that we have. 

  Additionally, any intelligent person who calls marijuana a drug, and especially a police chief to be of our city, is revealing his own ignorance. He should know it’s a mild euphoric that even the APA states is non-addictive. It’s the prohibition of marijuana that’s dangerous. Legalize it and that’s the end of the crime surrounding it. 

  Mr. Meehan may turn out to be no better and perhaps worse than our last chief, but until we know how he implements Berkeley law, he will have to be carefully monitored. 


Maris Arnold is a Berkeley resident.