APD on Asheville’s gangs and “really good weed”

It was May 1, and Capt. Tim Splain, an 18-year veteran of the Asheville Police Department who’s the head of criminal investigations, was in the firing line (metaphorically speaking) at the latest session of the city’s ongoing Citizens Academy.

“Let me be clear: Hip-hop does not cause gangs,” Splain declared after asserting that local media had blown police statements concerning the extent of local gang activity out of proportion. “Gangs have always been around; they arise when you have a lot of inequality. You have a lot of ‘haves’ in Asheville, but you have a lot of ‘have-nots’ too. They’re isolated in areas like public housing. The question, then, is how—with no education and no money, no power—how they’re going to get that stuff. They’re going to band together, and they’re going to take it.”

The increase in shootings in Asheville over the last three years is mostly due to gang violence, he said, and purely local neighborhood gangs are being replaced by national affiliations.

Splain detailed names, territories and affiliations of Asheville gangs. He shared photos from alleged gang member’s MySpace pages.

But Asheville resident Jumal Jackson was doubtful. “Doesn’t seem to me that you’ve got a gang problem so much as a clique problem,” he said. “Are you going to blame every random shooting on gang violence?”

Again, Splain blasted the media: “You sell more newspapers … if you’re talking about gangs. They want to hype everything.

“A lot of the big problem we’re having right now [is] with the wannabes,” he added, “because they feel like they have to prove themselves.”
The district attorney’s office, he noted, has started putting a “Death to Gangs” designation beside the names of known gang members charged with a crime, barring them from getting a plea bargain.

Earlier, police Chief Bill Hogan provided an overview of his department’s roles and the challenges it faces. There were also demonstrations by the APD’s specialized SWAT, explosive-devices and hostage-negotiation teams. But Splain’s presentation on drugs and gangs drew the most questions. Crack, he said, is Asheville’s most problematic drug, and he noted that the area has particularly high-value marijuana.

“There’s some really good weed around here,” he said, drawing laughter. “That’s a relatively recent trend. It used to be that pot was just pot; that’s not the way it is anymore.”

That prompted Jenny Bowen to ask how the APD would react to decriminalization, noting that it’s been proposed in a bill before the House of Representatives. “Would marijuana decriminalization help the APD by freeing it to concentrate more on these other drugs, or would it hinder things?”

“I understand that, for a lot of people, it’s no worse than a beer or a glass of wine,” Splain responded. “But the DEA … research says it’s a gateway drug … and I’ve seen that some too.

“In the end … if Congress passed a law, if City Council agreed, we would do that.”

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12 thoughts on “APD on Asheville’s gangs and “really good weed”

  1. Lokel

    Splain stated .. if Congress passed a law, if City Council agreed, we would do that.”

    If Congress passes the law there is NOTHING the City Council could do: municipalities can not enact laws that disregard or supersede State or Federal laws.

  2. What I asked Capt. Splain was in reference to the growing trend across America where municipalities decide it is not worth the time, energy or money to enforce Federal marijuana laws for minor possession. Obviously trafficking or growing large amounts of weed are not included in the decriminalization trend. Cities who put marijuana on a low priority are allowed to spend greater concentrated efforts on crack-cocaine, crystal meth and other drugs that rip apart the souls of individuals and communities.

    To see an extensive list of cities and states who have put pot on the back burner:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Places_that_have_decriminalized_marijuana_in_the_United_States

    Annually somewhere between $400K – $600K is added into the APD’s budget from confiscated drug money. This helps offset the city’s budget for the APD and helps them fund many needed services.

    In the US nearly 1 in 3 people will admit to using marijuana on an occasional basis. While I don’t have stats for Asheville, I am sure our population as a majority does not see Refer Madness taking over our city. So a decriminalization of personal use would make complete sense in order to save money and time of our valuable police services.

    My question to Capt Splain was specifically asking him if he thought that loosing the confiscated drug money from marijuana busts would HINDER the department as far as revenue loss.

    While I appreciated his honest answer in noting marijuana to be a minor player on the scale of mind-altering substances, it unfortunately did not address my specific query. This is something that would need to be considered and weighed before Asheville could mandate a low-priority effort on our ‘really good weed.’

  3. This morning my daily Einstein quote reminded me of the “really good weed” discussion:

    The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this. – A.Einstein

    Of course he was referring to alcohol and it’s time of being banned, but one could just as easily apply this sentiment to marijuana and how it’s illegality only fuels minor crime and local gang activity.

  4. JBugg – I’ve had a puff or two in my time and never has it effected my taste in art or music as badly as you describe. Nor have I ever had any inclination to listen to the Dead, Phish, or any other trendy hippi band.
    I have however found great insight at times in the altered state of being high. It also happens to be one of the best remedy’s for PMS cramps…but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. The come down of the munchies is actually the worst part. That and the fact that some folks can become total pot-heads, putting the bud as a priority above all else. By all means I am not in support of having a town of stoner zombies. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be a problem in any other municipality where marijuana has been put as a low-priority. It’s all about moderation.

  5. JBo- What follows is copy and pasted from Dictionary dot com, it will help you with a great deal of my posts and with life in general:

    joke- [johk] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, joked, jok·ing.
    –noun 1. something said or done to provoke laughter or cause amusement, as a witticism, a short and amusing anecdote, or a prankish act: He tells very funny jokes. She played a joke on him.
    2. something that is amusing or ridiculous, esp. because of being ludicrously inadequate or a sham; a thing, situation, or person laughed at rather than taken seriously; farce: Their pretense of generosity is a joke. An officer with no ability to command is a joke.
    3. a matter that need not be taken very seriously; trifling matter: The loss was no joke.
    4. something that does not present the expected challenge; something very easy: The test was a joke for the whole class.
    5. practical joke.
    –verb (used without object) 6. to speak or act in a playful or merry way: He was always joking with us.
    7. to say something in fun or teasing rather than in earnest; be facetious: He didn’t really mean it, he was only joking.
    –verb (used with object) 8. to subject to jokes; make fun of; tease.
    9. to obtain by joking: The comedian joked coins from the audience.

  6. nuvue

    What’s wrong with Phish and the Dead??

    Whether council, Mumps police or anybody cares or whatever they enforce, they better get used to the fact that pot has been in use for ages and is here to stay. People are going to use pot for many more generations. It could be further taxed, criminalized, outlawed or whatever and it will only get more and more popular.
    Sooo, Some restraint and relaxing of some laws will certainly help the court system and stop needlessly criminalizing the occasional users.

  7. spartan

    …and the added tax revenue (let the city and state tax the stuff, tourists would come from all over) might help a city’s financial woes…

  8. As a city we can’t LEGALIZE and thus tax marijuana – it goes against state and federal mandates. All we can do is not make it a high priority when enforcing our city laws, and let the state and federal enforcers manage the cost and time in busting someone for a joint.

    However, if enough cities and states decriminalize and de-prioritize marijuana it wouldn’t take too long before federal government officials start realizing that marijuana does not need to be linked into the blanket ‘war on drugs’.
    I’d love to see the feds allow farmers the ability to grow hemp, a very sustainable plant that could greatly benefit this country’s future.

  9. limabeancounter

    When I get high, I listen to Yanni … definitely illegal activity.

  10. A small posession fine could function very much like a tax, and be politically possible. Good understanding on this JBO, if only you understood zoning and its effect on rents on the same level.
    The difference is that Marijuana policy has no effect on me personally and so will not determine my vote while zoning does and will. Contraception funding has no direct effect on me either, so I have reluctantly decided to prioritize no zoning over even that. If I can stave off zoning then I can go out west and set municipal contraception precidents there instead of in the Southeast where it is hardest.

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