Cop stars in marijuana legalization commercial
TV ad campaign for measure 2 features Valdez police officer
Youtube screen shot
Jess Gondek, a veteran of the Valdez Police Dept., was featured in a TV commercial aired statewide that supports passage of Ballot Measure 2, An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana.
The quest to legalize marijuana in Alaska and regulate it like alcohol gained a high profile advocate in recent weeks.
Jess Gondek, a ten-year veteran with the Valdez Police Dept ., has been appearing in a TV commercial that is airing state wide, explaining why he voted yes on ballot measure 2.
Ballot measure 2, officially titled An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale and Use of Marijuana, will come before voters in this Tuesday's statewide elections.
The commercial, paid for by the Anchorage-based Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, shows Gondek, age 36, wearing a suit in front of a large book shelf with an American flag in the background.
"In all my years on the streets, it's hard to recall a single time where marijuana use itself was the cause of a violent incident," he tells the camera, "As a police officer, I do believe passing ballot measure 2 will allow law enforcement to focus on serious issues in Alaska."
Taylor Bickford, the media contact for Strategies 360, the firm representing the pro-marijuana campaign, said the commercial featuring Gondek was ending its run.
"It's getting switched out today," Bickford said in a telephonic interview late Monday afternoon. "It was a statewide buy."
Bickford said Gondek had reached out to the campaign early in the game, but was reluctant to speak out because of his work.
"He was somewhat reluctant to do it at first," he said.
Gondek said in a brief interview Tuesday morning that while he could not comment on reactions within VPD, the reaction from other individuals in the state's law enforcement community has been positive.
Valdez Police Chief Bill Comer – a well-known opponent of the ballot measure – was not available for comment but expressed his views in an email last August.
"I am strongly opposed to the legalization of marijuana and support the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police efforts to provide accurate information on this issue..." Comer said.
Comer was endorsing a guest editorial opinion arguing against the ballot measure.
"Drugged driving is a public health concern because it impairs motor skills, reaction time, and judgment; and it puts not only the driver at risk, but also passengers and others who share the road. Even low doses of marijuana moderately impair cognitive and psychomotor tasks associated with driving, while severe driving impairment is observed with high doses, chronic use and use in combination with low doses of alcohol. The more difficult and unpredictable the task, the more likely marijuana will impair performance," the opinion piece endorsed by Comer said. "The Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police hopes the people of Alaska will base their opinion on well researched, science-based facts about marijuana, and not rely on anecdotal evidence and biased propaganda. The safety of Alaska's streets and highways is at stake."
Gondek, a member of LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – has a differing view.
"To me, the regulation of marijuana means safer communities," he says in the commercial. "I voted yes on 2."
LEAP and its members endorse decriminalizing all drugs.
"We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer," the website for LEAP says. "We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths."