Good evening Reddit! My name is Norm Stamper and I was a police officer for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as the Police Chief of Seattle. Since I retired, I've spent a lot of time working with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( to legalize marijuana, end the drug war, and create a more peaceful society. I spent the last week in Alaska, working to spread the word about their marijuana legalization initiative. I believe a safer society can be achieved through a sensible reform of our nation's drug laws. AMA!

Edit: I've really enjoyed our discussion, thank you so much for all of your questions! I'm sorry that I can't get to everyone...lots of work to do! One last thought: Remember to vote. Alaska, Oregon, and DC have marijuana legalization on the ballot and Florida is voting on medical marijuana. The drug war is almost over, but we need your help.


Comments: 186 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

[deleted]44 karma

Do you support the legalization of all drugs?

CopsSayLegalize189 karma

Yes. The more dangerous, the more sensational the media coverage of a particular drug, the deeper the community's fears, the greater the justification for legalization. Without legalization we cannot regulate drug commerce. Without regulation we cannot enact reasonable controls. Who would you rather have regulating drug trafficking? Cartels, street gangs? Or, an admittedly imperfect government? Regulations on alcohol and, for that matter, tobacco, are stringent for a reason and while they don't work perfectly they're better than no controls.

kittens_in_mittens_39 karma


CopsSayLegalize36 karma

Good point. As with any new regulatory system there will be a period of balancing interests, in this case economic interests. Both WA and CO sought sufficient revenues to finance prevention, education, treatment. Again, I believe the voters need to help with the fine-tuning of the post-election system. We're getting there.

r_TheRedPill23 karma

What do you think of this recent story about the Seattle Police refusing to follow-up on thefts, even when the people who committed the robbery were positively identified?

CopsSayLegalize28 karma

Read it this morning. Made my blood boil, a statement you'd probably hear from a bunch of old-timers like me.

COent42017 karma

As an every day citizen what are some things that we may due to end prohibition? Obviously we can vote and promote the idea that prohibition has failed, but are there any less obvious methods that we may be active? Thanks for your support, it is always good to see a long term police officer in favor of legalization.

CopsSayLegalize30 karma

Well, voting is crucial, of course. But so is organizing, mobilizing, educating, speaking with friends, neighbors, elected officials and police officers, prosecutors, and others. May I strongly recommend that you and others consider joining LEAP ( It's a fine organization of current and former cops, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, federal agents, and other criminal justice practitioners who've come to the conclusion that the drug war has caused far more harm than good, and that it's time to end it.

Hghwytohell14 karma

Thanks for the work you do Norm. I work with college students on drug war activism and wanted to ask; in states with marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year, how can students remain active in the movement after the election?

CopsSayLegalize19 karma

Thank you. I think students can and must remain active in those states with marijuana ballot initiatives (win or lose) in order to (1) help perfect the regulatory system post-election, and (2) do what they can to help voters in other states pass similar laws. Marijuana prohibition is a national tragedy and every part of the country can play a role in helping to make our communities safer while safeguarding the civil liberties of all Americans.

CoconutWill13 karma

When do you think federal legalization will come?

CopsSayLegalize8 karma

As with most every prediction, it begins with "it depends." If all those who currently support marijuana legalization, for example, would write their congressmembers, submit letters to the editor or op-eds, would take part in grassroots organizing, I think we'd see marijuana reclassified by the federal government within a few short years (5-10), thus allowing the states to set their own laws legislatively.

TaraSFV11 karma

I have always maintained that the way to win this war is to OVERGROW the GOV. There should be so much marijuana out there that it would be next to Impossible to bust everyone.

Why do so many of your fellow officers have such a hard on for busting marijuana users when there are worse crimes going on?

CopsSayLegalize19 karma

I think my fellow officers were/are doing what they've been taught or instructed to do. When Seattle voters passed an initiative making marijuana enforcement the lowest priority (lower than jaywalking) for the Seattle Police Department and the City Attorneys Office, simple adult possession arrests plummeted. The people need to speak out.

BrokenHero40810 karma

what's the general consensus of the legalization of marijuana within seattle's police ranks? Earlier in your career did you ever feel as if marijuana was indeed a schedule 1 drug and you were simply doing your job by getting all those hardened criminals off the street?

CopsSayLegalize31 karma

I think the consensus is the new law is a smart one, reflecting not just the will of the people but a common sense approach for law enforcement. You can still bust someone for driving under the influence or furnishing to a minor, and that's of critical importance. But adults in possession of a small quantity of marijuana? My sense is police officers in Seattle think they have better things to do, and they're right.

cozzpuch9 karma

If the WTO protests happened today and you were still chief, what would you do differently?

CopsSayLegalize21 karma

A lot, but at the top of the list is not using tear gas on nonviolent, nonthreatening protestors. Please check out my article in The Nation (

Acquired6thSense8 karma

What's stopping pro-legalization cops from just not writing tickets?

CopsSayLegalize19 karma

Shorthand response: laws and policies, which, of course, must be changed.

CopsSayLegalize8 karma

Sorry to have to end this conversation. I hope we can do it again!

Flibidi6 karma

What I fear about marijuana legalisation is that all drugs dealer would have their income significantly decrease because some businessmen will take the business. These drug dealers will have to earn money, and they could commit other kind of crimes to continue earning money, such as robbery.

You who were a policeman, do you think it is a possible hypothesis? What is your solution to this issue?

CopsSayLegalize10 karma

There will always be evil, greedy people (in addition to those simply looking for an opportunity to make a buck) willing to engage in criminal behavior. If they're big-time marijuana dealers they will, of course, look for other ways to make money. But I believe legalization will simply drive most out of the trade.

Marshreddit6 karma

Have you seen "The House I Live In" by Eugene Jarecki? For anyone that hasn't it makes great claims about the War on Drugs and the systematic failings of the prison system, among many other points. (It also won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival)

edit: Also, though I don't live in Seattle, SPD has had some great press in reaction to legalization. That is all I can say, thank you for being civil and progressive in a time that it was very much needed.

CopsSayLegalize5 karma

Yes, most disturbing. But an important contribution to the growing body of evidence of the need for fundamental reform.

OkamiKnuX5 karma

Hello Officer Stamper, thank you for your 34 years of service to the community!
Do you feel like police officers are pressured internally to not freely speak their mind if they oppose the Drug War or support organizations like LEAP?
Police officers often form very tight, military-like, communities proven to have drawbacks when it comes to unpopular or independent thought that goes against the 'group opinion'.
This "Us and Them" mentality often causes officers to be reticent about whistle-blowing on internal corruption because of fears of being ostracized, fired, or worse. (great article by Frank Serpico on this topic)
Does this same attitude perhaps prevent active police from being more public about their opinions on marijuana and drug legalization?

CopsSayLegalize6 karma

Yes, no question about it. Too many police officers are subject to all those internal pressures you mention. But the more who stand up and speak out, the easier it will be for other cops to do the same. I read Frank's piece, an important article for these times.

CopsSayLegalize5 karma


Sirsexiness5 karma

In your opinion how much will we as a country benefit? I realize there are economic benefits from the legalization and you believe this will be the end to the drug war, yet there are still many other illegal drugs that would continue the war, not to mention the possible side effects including a rise in DUI's and other related problems.

CopsSayLegalize16 karma

Enormously. 100 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million are regular consumers. Those economic benefits you're talking about are substantial but there's also a huge payoff in crimefighting priorities, improvement in the community-police relationship, an end to hypocrisy, etc. Some assume legalization would result in a big increase in use of the so-called "heavy drugs." I don't buy it.

TheBrownKnight2105 karma

Did you ever witness first hand corruption while working as a police officer?

CopsSayLegalize7 karma

Yes, though it depends on one's definition of "corruption." A variety of forms from where I sit. I've written about them in my book, Breaking Rank ( Not a plug, honest. Just not enough time to address the issue fully in this space.

skoybot3 karma

As far as you can tell, have there been many law enforcement officers in Washington, who may have initially opposed marijuana legalization, change their minds in recent months?

CopsSayLegalize13 karma

I've personally heard from a few. They opposed the initiative, learned the sky didn't fall when it passed, and they're going after predatory criminal offenders. A win for the people, a win for public safety.

Frajer3 karma

How did your fellow cops view the war on drugs?

CopsSayLegalize11 karma

Mixed, for sure. Some are completely on board with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's agenda (see, some continue to be sold on the drug war's (immoral, unwinnable) mission. I believe that's because they've spent their entire careers as frontline soldiers in the WOD, absorbing the vocabulary, developing an identity as drug warriors. But, increasingly, police officers at all ranks are speaking out, questioning the effectiveness, the financial and human costs of the drug war.

CopsSayLegalize11 karma

I might also add that the white-hot topic of police militarization, brought to the foreground by my own handling of the WTO demonstrations in '99, the police response to the Occupy Movement, and, of course, law enforcement's reaction to the protests in Ferguson, has its roots in the drug war. That, and the federal government's willingness to hand out billions of dollars of surplus military equipment, vehicles, and weapons to local law enforcement. "Homeland security" is the ostensible reason but, regrettably, the greatest use of such equipment is dedicated to early- or pre-dawn drug raids. Often prompted by little more than a "confidential informant's" observation of a very low-level, nonviolent suspect in possession of a small quantity of marijuana.

lisasimpson243 karma

Why do you think some police oppose drug law reform?

CopsSayLegalize13 karma

They've been brought up to believe it's the right thing to do. Our job, is to present the case for reform and do it in compelling fashion.

CopsSayLegalize37 karma

BTW, one of the biggest reasons police oppose drug law reform is because they stand to lose revenue, both in the form of federal grants and in seized and forfeited assets. Many departments, sad to say, have become "addicted" to those revenue streams...

CircularMatrix3 karma

How do you plan to accomplish it?

CopsSayLegalize6 karma

Sorry for the late start. How to accomplish it? The same way all successful grassroots movements take place, especially since the people will lead the way on this. If we have enough successful statewide initiatives (a la Colorado and Washington), legislatures across the land will take note.

gokusun2 karma

What's your favorite Canterbury Tale?

CopsSayLegalize9 karma

Confession: I've not read Chaucer.

troy777-1 karma

How you got in police? 2. How to apply in police?

CopsSayLegalize8 karma

An accident, really. Accompanied a friend to take the San Diego Police Department civil service test. Passed it and got hooked. Applications procedures vary from one agency to another. Check with your city or county (or state or federal) government.

PabstyLoudmouth-8 karma


CopsSayLegalize8 karma