L.A.P.D.'S CHIEF BRATTON SAYS HE BACKS MEDICAL MARIJUANA
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 4, 2002 -- In a brief exclusive interview with The American Reporter tonight, new Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton became the latest nationally-known law enforcement official to back the use of medical marijuana.
"I have no problem with that," Bratton told AR after a crowded community meeting at the Selma Ave. Elementary School organized by area pastors and neighborhood groups.
Bratton, famed for cleaning up New York City as its most recent police commissioner, also reiterated his opposition to the legalization of marijuana for personal use.
"I am opposed to marijuana, and I support the national drug policy, but I have no problem with medical marijuana," he said.
The subject arose when Los Angeles County HIV & AIDS Commissioner Richard Eastman, who is himself living with AIDS, approached Bratton to ask about his stand. Informed of Bratton's response, an AR Correspondent approached Bratton and verified his response.
"Studies have shown that it is able to relieve the sufferers of pain, and I have no problem with its use for that," Bratton said.
Bratton joins Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca as a high-profile backer of medical marijuana. San Francisco legalized its use, and has been battling Federal officials over the spread of cannabis clubs that make the drug available to AIDS sufferers. A state medical marijuana initiative was approved by the state's voters in 1996 but is largely ignored by local officials because of Federal opposition from the Office of National Drug Policy, where Bratton has been an influential voice.
"He is the first police chief in eight years that I've been a commissioner that has answered that quesion in the affirmative," said Eastman.
The well-known AIDS activist said he has spoken with several other chiefs over the past decade and none have supported use of the drug. Eastman presented the chief with a lapel pin in the shape of a marijuana leaf that he acquired during the 1996 campaign to legalize medicinal pot in the state. The chief gingerly accepted it.
Also in earshot as the chief spoke to the American Reporter was David Butow, a photojournalist with U.S. News & World Report. "I heard him say that," Butow said. "That's a story," he agreed.
The community meeting, attended by 300 area residents and dozens of police officers, heard community concerns about the relationship between Los Angeles school police and the L.A.P.D., police chases and the sharp rise in gang violence in Los Angeles, where almost 300 murders have been attributed to gangs this year.
Bratton disapointed some Hollywood community members who complained about the absence of foot patrols and adequate numbers of police officers, but won applause for his honesty when he told the audience that there is no money in the city's budget for the number of officers needed to meet the city's needs.
Even with 300 new graduates from the newly-filled police academy, the net gain for the city will be just 120 to 150 officers, he said, as a result of retirements and other departures from the 9,000-man force. Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for the 1996 medical marijuana initiative and mischaracterized the 1996 campaign. Chief Bratton's name was also misspelled in one instance. We regret these errors.