John O’Brien | LEAP | Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

About John O'Brien

Former Sheriff
John O'Brien

Fullerton, CA

“Any law enforcer who agrees with keeping marijuana illegal and unregulated is operating in a dream world.”

John O’Brien was the elected sheriff of Genesee County, Michigan from 1973 until 1984. When John was first elected sheriff, he was asked on a local radio show for his opinion about marijuana laws. His response in 1973 was the same as it is today: “We should legalize marijuana in a way that would bring it within a regulated model like alcohol, providing for taxing and regulation.”

Over the next 35-plus years, John has watched the amount of illicit drug market related crimes, organized crime, and corrupt law enforcement grow. His five sons and two daughters came home with stories of how easy it was to obtain drugs at school. The demands on the justice system grew, and he knew the drug war was funneling resources away from other essential services. “Now we have a very large marijuana industry --unregulated and untaxed. Anyone who wants marijuana can get all they want, easily.”

“I’d rather not see any of my tax dollars go toward drug enforcement,” he says, “and I say that not as a law enforcer, but as a citizen. We’re in dire financial straits here in California. I’d rather see our resources be directed towards education, both at the local and university level. Education is a more productive and constructive use of taxpayer money. When all is said and done, it’s my belief that using law enforcement resources to prohibit drugs like we’ve been doing for years has hardly made a dent in the availability of illegal or controlled substances.“

John served as a board member and past president of the Michigan Sheriffs' Association as well as on the Michigan Sheriffs' Ethics Committee. John was a member of the Michigan State Bar from 1974 until 2000 and has been member of the California Bar from 1984 to the present. John has taught business law and criminal justice courses at the University of Phoenix, Southern California campus, since 2001.