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Baltimore Police commissioner not in favor of marijuana legalization

By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

7:19 PM EST, January 30, 2014

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Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts in a radio interview on Thursday evening expressed doubt that marijuana should be legalized. 

Batts, responding to a question from host Anthony McCarthy on WEAA, discussed his own upbringing in describing his view on marijuana, which recently became legal in two states. Batts said he grew up in a poor neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles, but attend a "very rich" high school 90 minutes away.

He said the students there were children of movie directors, lawyers and bankers. 

"Those kids experimented with drugs, but when they went to a certain age, they dropped those habits and went into corporate America," Batts said. "The norm of society was, 'You can play with this, then you have to move away.'"

But in his neighborhood, he said, use of the drug created problems. "They were never able to get off those drugs, and move on to harder drugs," Batts said. 

He said he worried about what effect legalization would have in Baltimore. "We already have a city with a high addiction - what would that do to the city of Baltimore?" Batts said. 

Batts also referenced marijuana when discussing a jump in homicides this year. 

"Homicide is an immediate impact, the most egregious," he said. "But what we're dealing with right now ... is that some people are putting themselves in a position to have these incidents taking place. I'm not saying the loss of life is anyone's fault, but when you're calling your weed dealer or drug dealer, and you show up with money and you get robbed and it turns into a shooting, that's what we're seeing."

He continued, "If you call a guy who has weed, and you meet him in a dark alley, which we've had happen, those are ending up in very problematic ... situations."

In a Twitter town hall chat earlier in the day, Batts was asked about the high number of shootings tied in some way to vehicles. "We are starting to see a pattern of weed deliveries where drug victims are meeting dealers in cars," he said.

After being asked later why police pursue drug busts, he said "were [sic] seeing a lot of violence surrounding marijuana home invasions [sic] we will follow the violence wherever it leads to."

His comments on legalization echoed those of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who said earlier this month in a radio interview that he was "not much in favor of it. We've seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state, to the people of our city." And Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she supported diversionary programs for drug users who are arrested but said she would not be "waving the Schmoke flag of legalization."

A group of state lawmakers have launched an effort to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland.