A group of current and retired law enforcement and legal personnel claim they have the answer to ending the war on drugs.
"We’re all calling for an end to drug prohibition. We want to end it just like we ended alcohol prohibition in 1933,” said Jack Cole, executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP.
"The day after we ended that nasty law, Al Capone and all of his smuggling buddies were out of business,” he said.
LEAP boasts roughly 13,000 members, among them 102 in Oklahoma; only 11 of the state’s members have law enforcement experience. LEAP put up a billboard at 7800 N Broadway that reads: "Drug Abuse is Bad. The Drug War is Worse.” Cole said the reason for this ad campaign is to open the public’s eyes to the true cost of the war on drugs.
However, LEAP represents a minority of the nation’s law enforcement. Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said legalizing and regulating drugs would cause more problems than it would solve.
"It’s frightening and reckless that a group of law enforcement officers would endorse something like that. ... Look at what happened when we legalized alcohol and prescription drugs,” Woodward said. "Now they’re the two most abused substances globally.”
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, President Barack Obama called for $14.1 billion to support the war on drugs for the 2009 fiscal year.
Cole, who was an undercover narcotics officer in New Jersey for 14 years, said the drug war has been going on since the early 1970s and the point was to clean up the streets, but the opposite is happening.
"The point is the government now has absolutely no control over the drugs that are used in this country,” said Wes Johnson, a Tulsa defense attorney, former narcotics officer and member of LEAP.
Johnson said if drugs were legalized, the government would be able to control the quality, quantity, production, price and distribution — much like alcohol and tobacco — and make money off of it, but "right now, the criminals control all of that.” All the current system is doing is driving up the cost of the drugs, Johnson added.
People on both sides acknowledge there’s a long way to go before legislation to change the law would come to fruition.
"I think our legislation has a great appreciation for the destruction drugs have created in the state of Oklahoma and in the families and the community they represent,” Woodward said. "I don’t see legislators supporting something that could possibly lead to more of this type of destruction.”
BY Brian Kimball
Published: June 15, 2009