Cops Like Me Say Legalize All Drugs. Here’s Why.




Who exactly is prohibition supposed to be helping? After many years of enforcing drug laws as a police officer, my experience with an addicted family member changed my attitude for good.

I was a police officer for 20 years, enforcing drug laws in California and thinking I was doing my part for society. But what made me think properly about drug use for the first time was my experience with my older brother, Billy. I had watched him struggle with a lifelong problem with drugs. But I still did not understand what it meant to be Billy until my husband convinced me to open up my heart and our home to save him in 2002.

It was in this intimacy of watching Billy try, during the year he lived with us, to live up to the expectations of society and those he loved that I realized that our society’s portrayal of people with chronic drug problems was both damaging and morally flawed.


By society’s standard, my brother was a criminal. His struggles with addiction taught me many things. He had many years of sobriety, interspersed with the setbacks that addiction specialists know so often come with the condition. But because of an emphasis by the court system on abstinence-only drug programs, and an emphasis on punishment over progress, these normal and accepted setbacks in recovery were exacerbated by harsh penalties. Because of Billy’s felony convictions for drugs, he was unemployable. He lacked healthcare until we stepped in. Without us, my brother would have been on the streets. Yet despite our help, my brother passed away from an accidental overdose of psychotropic medications and alcohol.

After having my eyes opened to the realities of drug use, I realized we could not arrest our way out of this problem. I joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. Some people are surprised to find that police, prosecutors, judges and others arguing for legalizing drugs, but in many ways we are the best positioned to see the injustices and ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system up close.

Decriminalization laws can do many good things. They reduce law enforcement and incarceration costs, allow police to focus on more pressing matters and keep casual users out of a criminal justice system that already destroys far too many lives. However, LEAP supports full drug legalization because of what decriminalization doesn’t do.
We’ve seen how federal grants and civil asset forfeiture laws (whereby police can take your property and use or sell it for their own benefit, even if you’re never charged with a crime) encourage police to go after drug offenders while real criminals roam free. We’ve seen people die of overdose. We’ve seen people go to prison who had no business being there. And we’ve seen that none of this has reduced drug use or addiction. In spite of more than 40 years of the war on drugs—and the trillion dollars we’ve spent—Americans now have access to drugs that are cheaper, more potent and just as readily available as when the drug war started. Who exactly is prohibition supposed to be helping?

But that doesn’t mean that everything we’ve tried has failed. As we work towards a world in which drugs are legalized and regulated, we can take smaller steps toward smarter drug policies by supporting decriminalization laws and by implementing harm reduction strategies, which address drug problems using a public health model that reduces death, disease and addiction.

In America we practice a different form of decriminalization than, for example, in Portugal, where you can possess up to 10 days’ worth of any drug with only an administrative or civil penalty. Decriminalization laws vary by state but generally mean that first-time offenders will not go to prison or be burdened with a criminal record for possession of a small amount of drugs for personal consumption. But even in states that have liberalized their drug statutes, there are still many collateral consequences for something as simple as a drug conviction—including the potential loss of federal aid for student loans, denial of social welfare benefits such as housing and food stamps, denial of voting privileges or professional licenses, and termination of parental rights.

Decriminalization laws can do many good things. They reduce law enforcement and incarceration costs, allow police to focus on more pressing matters and keep casual users out of a criminal justice system that already destroys far too many lives.

However, LEAP supports full drug legalization because of what decriminalization doesn’t do. It doesn’t set up a system of regulated purity, so users don’t know what they’re putting in their bodies or how strong it is, increasing the risk of overdose. And if someone does overdose, their friends may be afraid to call for help for fear of being prosecuted. Decriminalization doesn’t enact age restrictions on sales or stop the violence generated by upheavals and turf wars caused by law enforcement intervention. It doesn’t necessarily prevent large racial disparities because of the wide discretion in charging by prosecutors. And it does nothing to impact the enormous profits being made from drugs by violent criminal gangs, or to stop the violence generated by upheavals and turf wars caused by law enforcement intervention.

People working in public health understand that harm reduction strategies produce positive health outcomes. Even law enforcement is beginning to understand the necessity of thinking outside the “drug war” box to save lives by implementing and supporting programs that use the precepts of reducing harms to those using drugs. By supporting “Good Samaritan” laws that allow witnesses to an overdose to save a life by calling 911 without threat of criminal prosecution, criminal justice professionals are recognizing that the threat of criminal sanctions has contributed to too many deaths.

Seattle, which gives officers the ability to connect low-level, non-violent drug dealers and users with treatment and services as an alternative to jail, is an example of a law enforcement agency using harm reduction strategies to improve the lives of those struggling with addiction. The Quincy, Massachusetts Police Department is another. By mandating that its officers carry naloxone, a cheap and effective drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, they saved more than two hundred lives in just over three years. Imagine how much difference it would make if police departments across the country adopted a similar model.

It is clear to me that implementing decriminalization and harm reduction models are vital steps on the way to a smarter drug policy and should be supported. But to stop there is short-sighted, as it will leave unresolved the violence associated with the illicit market, as well as the other inevitable consequences of an ineffective drug policy based on politics, rather than what we know works.

Isn’t it time that we demand that our government use science, best practices and compassion to design drug policy?

http://www.substance.com/cops-like-me-say-legalize-drugs-heres-why/
 

Comments

I wish we could have everyone get on board with this. It won't fix much in the grand scheme of how fucked up the US is, but it's a compassionate start.
 
For the users, drugs should be treated as a social, and medical problem, not involving imprisonment or fines. For those people selling, importing, or transporting commercial quantities, the situation is different, but what about "drug mules", and people who sell a bit, to finance their own, often expensive habit?
 
CLICKHEREx;12312571 said:
For the users, drugs should be treated as a social, and medical problem, not involving imprisonment or fines. For those people selling, importing, or transporting commercial quantities, the situation is different, but what about "drug mules", and people who sell a bit, to finance their own, often expensive habit?
If you are willing to concede that people should be punished for buying and using something of their own free will, why do you beleive the situation is different for those people who are providing the goods the buyers desire?
 
scureto1;12312628 said:
If you are willing to concede that people should be punished for buying and using something of their own free will, why do you beleive the situation is different for those people who are providing the goods the buyers desire?
I suppose one reason would be because it gives others a person to blame, if not ourselves, since not every judge will accept that a drug user can be the victim and the perpetrator of the criminal act of street drug possession and consumption. Not that I believe it's a good alternative, since they usually don't come to me offering their services.
 
Prohibition will never work. To help people we must legalize. It's awesome to see officers staniding up for what they beleive in....even if it's against the norm.
 
LEAP is awesome, and they apparently have a new documentary coming out soon about the war on drugs from their unique perspective. And who knows - it may help change a lot of pro-drug war minds for the better.
 
bunge;12315881 said:
^
hopefully but...you cant teach stupid.lol
Isn't that a Ron White quote? I think that's the name of one of his stand-up specials. "You can't fix stupid," iirc, lol. People TEACH stupid all the time! :X

Forcing stupid ideas on the public has always been a foundational point of the drug war entirely :(
"You can't teach stupid." That should be the new rule!!!! lol

Goddamn unenlightened minds thinking they know everything without even noticing all the nifty shortcuts and other benefits these substances can provide for humanity. If they could only see what they are really doing...

Anyways, I hope LEAP keeps it up, fighting the good fight. This world has gone far too long living under draconian policies driven mainly by the corporate interests of the corrupt looking only to maintain their dominance and prosperity under false pretenses and the needless suffering of others...

LONG LIVE THE LEAP
 
Leap is great. But if you're an active duty cop it would prob be akin to bring called a commie by mccarthy in the late 50s. It would turn into us against those junkie scumnags. Good to see there are some cops that actually have their heads not shoved up their asses and can see this is not working the way it is, despite the gung ho cops that say "were gunna win dis war! Derrr!!
 
I was a police officer for 20 years
Emphasis mine. Sigh.

This opinion piece is not unique. I've read quite a few like it in the mainstream media. Look through the archives of DiTM. I'll actually get excited when I read one by a police officer who's still on active duty in the force, and is actively doing something about the racket called the War on Drugs from the inside. The fact that we don't see this just lends support for the idea that most American cops and other justice system workers depend on a steady stream of drug-related arrests for their livelihoods.
 
Yes completely. They don't need witnesses or or anything else a defwndwnt in like a shoplifting case would need unless they actually had the stolen material. Cops love drug cases BC it requires no work, and esp BC drugs are so demonized. You get arrested with an oz of coke the cop doesn't need witnesses or any kind of corroboration, it speaksbfor itself. Its bullshit.
 
[QUOTE='medicine cabinet';12319632]Yes completely. They don't need witnesses or or anything else a defwndwnt in like a shoplifting case would need unless they actually had the stolen material. Cops love drug cases BC it requires no work, and esp BC drugs are so demonized. You get arrested with an oz of coke the cop doesn't need witnesses or any kind of corroboration, it speaksbfor itself. Its bullshit.[/QUOTE]

True words, plus they get an oz of coke they usually steal a lot of it and replace it with cut, as long as it tests positive for coke, which it will whether 5% or 90% pure, and they then get high or sell it or both. Lotta cops get paid by being dealers and protecting the big wig lawyers and judges who are into making cash from drugs being illegal..without drugs being illegal their would be no need for even 10% of all lawyers, judges, cops and defintely no need for the damn crooked dea asses!
 
As long as they make treatment an option rather than mandatory, I'm all for it. Here in FL there is a law called the "Baker Act" where any person who is under the influence of drugs can be taken (by force if necessary) to a treatment facility for a 72 hour evaluation. This, along with the "Drug Court" system, has created a runaway system of for-profit rehab centers. It makes me sick.

I think the law was written to help patients who are suicidal but the wording says anyone who uses drugs is deemed "Incompetent to consent to treatment." It is one of the worst laws ever and I cringe every time I hear an officer say he is "enroute to treatment facility." This happens many times a day. I listen to it on the scanner. Is it better than going to jail? For someone who has simply had one too many... probably not. For some it is a good thing though.

So decriminalization and the OPTION of getting free help would be the best way. It's good to see that some places are taking steps in the right direction, but here in FL I don't think I'll ever see full decriminalization. There's way too much money involved for both healthcare & law enforcement, which have their own armies of lobbyists. LEAP will likely never be able to compete.

But raising awareness of the problem is the first and most important step on the road to change. That's what the rehab industry has been preaching for years and it's time we applied it to the bigger picture.
 
This issue causes me some serious cognitive dissonance. I can't get behind having certain drugs legalized, and packaged for sale (by profit driven big corporations/med industry, no less, who the hell do you think is going to be top dog in this scenario?). I'm thinking drugs like opiates, meth, GABA stuff... mostly the harder stuff with serious abuse potential and serious withdrawal syndromes. I just can't support that kind of free for all. Drugs can easily fuck people up, even when the struggles of availability/price are removed.

Decrim? Sure. All the way. Harm reduction, no more prison for smaller amounts, all that stuff. Possibly clinics/doctors that can prescribe a current addict his DOC under certain regulations. But that's where some of the dissonance comes in... it's like you have to have people illegally selling the drugs to get them, and only after that can you get them legally. It's weird. Legal drugs would be a regulatory nightmare... and not something I'd want on store shelves that 18 year olds could go buy, freely, cheaply and easily (More dissonance, I know there's no age limits on illegal drugs). Not in this irresponsible society, not for a long time yet.
 
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