Chief Koval talks pot after massive marijuana bust

Koval says decriminalizing casual possession in Madison has been successful
Chief Koval talks pot after massive marijuana bust
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said the massive marijuana bust announced Thursday was so significant in scope that it “couldn’t be denied or overlooked”.  In that situation, drug investigators uncovered $1 million in pot and more than 1100 pounds of marijuana plants.

“At the end of the day, even those of us who look at the legalization or regulation of marijuana for casual possession, it’s not contrary or inconsistent with this massive drug arrest that we made over the course of the last 24 hours,” Koval said.

Koval said while he is not in the business of promoting drug and alcohol use to youth, he said it’s time for Wisconsin to seriously look at legalizing marijuana across the state.

“Perhaps it’s time to reopen a vigorous public policy discussion on what it could do to legalize the causal possession effects of marijuana,” Koval said.

Koval said the casual possession of pot shouldn’t be a reason to create more criminals.  He said he’s not sure if making marijuana illegal helps people seeking treatment or those running jails.

“I don’t know if the stigma that we see for giving someone a criminal arrest record or prosecution for possession of marijuana is the most helpful in terms of moving forward as a criminal justice system,” Koval said.

Koval said small-scale pot use doesn’t fall high on the priorities list when it comes to other problems in the city, like gangs, heroin, and domestic violence.

“How much do we want to criminalize, how much do we want to label and forever stigmatize,” Koval explained, “and to what extent is the criminal justice built to withstand more people in our jails and prisons under what I consider mere casual possession charges?”

Representative Melissa Sargent (D – Madison) introduced a bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the last legislative session.  She plans to re-pitch her pro-pot bill, and while she is not confident it will pass, Sargent said she’s ready to talk with people like Koval about the legislation.

“I believe that by legalizing it, we would be pulling the illegitimate and often times dangerous businesses out of the shadows and doing it in a regulated and thoughtful manner,” Sargent said.

“It’s not that I’m trying to say that the casual possession of marijuana, unlawful, illegal, shouldn’t get any of our attention or time, because it does,” Koval said.  “But it pales in comparison to the bigger issues.”

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