Group seeks to change country’s drug policy

A war on drugs is being waged by the state, but a group of current and former law enforcement members are waging their own war on the drug policies they say are flawed. 

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – founded March 16, 2002 – on its Web site states in its mission statement that it advocates alternative methods to combat instances of crime, incarceration, addiction, disease and death. LEAP is an international nonprofit educational organization.

Peter Christ, LEAP co-founder and a retired Tonawanda, N.Y. police captain, said two percent of all drugs are prohibited, but billions of dollars are being spent each year to make prohibition work.

Unfortunately, for some LEAP members, the human cost of prohibition is far greater than the economic expense.  

“In my opinion, the ultimate goal of LEAP is to eliminate schedule one,” Christ said.  “We will have won our point if the federal government no longer bans drugs, but regulates all of them.”

The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration Web site states that schedule one drugs are drugs that are considered by the DEA under the Controlled Substances Act, to have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in the United States and have very little accepted safety provisions for use.  These include heroin, marijuana and LSD.

Kevin Lavine, LEAP member and a former military police officer and Mississippi State policeman, spoke about the organization and his personal beliefs about prohibition and the current drug policy.

 “I think there’s a need for a policy change.  I think we need to switch to legalization in an effort to transfer the control of drugs from the black market drug dealers to regulation by the federal government,” Lavine said.

 LEAP said drugs can be dangerous, but there have been numerous unintended consequences of the war on drugs, the least of which have to do with possession.  One of the most dangerous and detrimental consequences of the war on drugs has been the flourishing black market and the violent crimes committed because of it.

Mike Jones, a retired Gainesville deputy police chief, said he believes society is decades past the point when prohibition should have ended.

“Right now people are willing to die to be a drug pusher,” Jones said. “They’re willing to shoot other people and risk being killed themselves in order to sell drugs that are currently illegal.  If you took away that market and made drugs legal and distributed with similar regulations as alcohol and tobacco then you put all of those people out of business.”

Lauren Horn, 21, a junior Spanish student from Chicago, agreed.

“I think it could be a good thing.  It could cut down on crime and could possibly help the economy,” Horn said.

For many officers the staggering facts concerning race and socio-economic status is also an issue.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics states that blacks “are disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders. The victimization rates for blacks were 6 times higher than those for whites. The offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher the rates for whites.”

Donald Jones, assistant dean of multicultural affairs at Florida Coastal School of Law and a LEAP member, expressed his concern over these statistics.

“There are more young African American males in, what I consider a form of slavery, than there were in 1860,” Jones said.  “We have the largest number of people in prison than any other Western, industrialized country in the world.  We are the world’s leader in imprisoning people and the majority of those people are African American.”

Christ said the underlying consensus within LEAP is that America needs a regulated and controlled marketplace.