By Nate Hendley
Here’s an anniversary you might have missed: on March 16, a group called LEAP turned 10 years-old.
LEAP stands for “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition” and is an international association of cops, judges, prison officials and politicians who think the time has come to remove criminal penalties on illegal drugs.
“Our experience on the front lines of the “war on drugs” has led us to call for a repeal of prohibition and its replacement with a tight system of legalized regulation, which will effectively cripple the violent cartels and street dealers who control the current illegal market,” reads the Medford, Massachusetts-based association’s website.
Originally founded by five cops, the group now claims over a thousand members from the world of law enforcement and 50,000 civilian supporters. Members include former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Chief Joseph McNamara (chief of police for San Jose, California for 15 years), Chief Norm Stamper (former chief of police for Seattle, Washington) and Senator Larry Campbell (former mayor of drug-riddled Vancouver, BC, retired RCMP officer and now a member of Canada’s Senate).
“We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes these drugs so valuable – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control … Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade,” reads the LEAP site.
Scrapping prohibition would let law officers focus on more serious offences like rape, assault and murder, while reducing opportunities for police corruption. Prison costs would go drastically down while public confidence in police (shaken by cases of police taking bribes or helping themselves to cash while busting dealers) would be restored, states LEAP.
None of these ideas are terribly original or new. Drug law reform groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), as well as assorted libertarians and activists have been putting forward the same points for years.
It’s easy however, to ignore calls for legalization from spaced out hippies and armchair theorists—as drug law reformers are typically portrayed in the media. It’s much tougher to ignore the message when it comes from a cop. If current and former peace officers are willing to say publicly that certain laws cause more harm than good, people should pay close attention.
So, happy birthday to LEAP, as the group enters its second decade—lawmen and women advocating a radical change in the way society deals with dope.
(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)