Comments prompt a debate offer from marijuana advocate

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A retired narcotics officer's Facebook comments have prompted a challenge from the leader of an organization advocating marijuana legalization in Missouri.

Sgt. Kevin Glaser, a retired Missouri State Highway Patrol officer and a member of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association's board of directors, posted comments on his Facebook page, criticizing participants who showed up for an Oct. 21 town hall meeting sponsored by Show-Me Cannabis.

"I attended the 'Show Me Cannabis' meeting for the legalization of marijuana," Glaser wrote. "It was held at the Cape Girardeau Public Library. This was a good location because it afforded many in the group an opportunity to actually visit a library, probably for the first time in their life."

Later in his post, Glaser wrote: "A quick scan of the room should by itself be ample evidence for not legalizing marijuana. It scared the hell out of me that these people actually go to the polls and vote. ... Tomorrow I go back to fighting crime and serving the public and they go back to drawing their welfare check and trying to figure out how to legally grow marijuana."

John Payne, executive director and treasurer of Show-Me Cannabis, took exception to Glaser's comments and wrote a blog entry on the organization's website, challenging Glaser to a public debate.

Glaser, reached by telephone Wednesday, said his Facebook comments were directed to his friends and family and were not intended for public consumption, but he stood by his views.

"To me, Facebook's there to put your opinion on, and I wouldn't retract a word about it," he said.

Glaser said he would be open to debating Payne, but he thought someone with more experience in public debate might do a better job.

"I think there's probably a few people I know out there that's better suited for something like that," Glaser said.

Payne said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Glaser's perception of the audience at the town hall meeting may have been influenced by cultural stereotypes about supporters of marijuana legalization.

"I'm not a hippie," said Payne, an avid conservative. "I don't identify necessarily with that culture. There's also people that use it for medicinal purposes."

Glaser said his view of the attendees came from 22 years of experience as a narcotics officer.

"That's what I deal with every day," he said. "More times than not, when we get involved with people who are abusing drugs, there's probably a welfare check coming in the mail for them."

Payne said the face of the pro-marijuana movement is changing, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and small-government advocates embracing the issue in recent years.

"As long as they're not hurting anybody else, we should respect their rights," he said.

Glaser didn't disagree with that.

"If you want to smoke a joint in the privacy of your own home, I don't really care, as long as you don't come out and cause me a problem," he said.

The bigger question, Glaser said, is whether people would be content to do that. He cited a conversation with a man at the town hall meeting who insisted he was a better driver when he smoked marijuana.

Payne said his organization would like to see Missouri legalize marijuana but impose age restrictions, enforce DWI laws and regulate commercial growers to ensure their operations are run safely and responsibly.

Glaser questioned whether such measures would work.

Payne said police officers tend to be split on the issue, with narcotics officers supporting current laws and "beat cops" advocating legalization as a means of freeing up their time to pursue more serious crimes.

Glaser suggested Missouri legislators take a wait-and-see approach to the issue and observe what happens in Colorado and Washington -- both which legalized marijuana recently -- over the next few years.

"I would like everybody just to slow down and take a breath," he said. "Let's see what the repercussions of legalization are going to do."

epriddy@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

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