Monday, August 31, 2009

Will Legal Marijuana Look Like This?

Print magazine solicited a number of professional design firms to put together potential packaging for legal marijuana. It resulted in a very interesting collection.
The statistics website FiveThirtyEight estimates that if public support continues to grow at its current pace, legalization could happen within 15 years.

With this in mind, Print contacted four firms: Lust, a graphic design practice in Amsterdam established by Thomas Castro, Jeroen Barendse, and Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen; the New York office of Base, which worked with its branches in Europe; the Oslo firm Strømme Throndsen, winner of the 2009 Award for Design Excellence for its flour packaging; and The Heads of State, a two-man operation run by Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers in Philadelphia.

The brief was simple: What would a legal pack of marijuana cigarettes look like?
Check out the Print site for more pics of the designs.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Volunteers Needed

Our new Speakers Bureau Director, Shaleen Title, recently sent this email to all LEAP members:

"Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is seeking professional, articulate volunteers to support LEAP by booking speaking engagements in your area.

LEAP is growing quickly as more and more distinguished members of law enforcement join us to speak out about the harms caused by our current drug policies. As you know, LEAP's strategy is to send our respected and credible speakers out to explain this issue to captive audiences. We want to utilize each speaker to their maximum potential and reach as many new people as possible, so we are seeking volunteers to help us put our speakers in front of audiences across the United States and abroad.

Because of the training involved, we ask volunteers to commit to 1-2 hours per week. You'll be reaching out to civic clubs, universities, churches, and other groups in your area to book our speakers. We will train you to call on these groups as a member of LEAP and explain why they should be interested in hosting a LEAP speaker. As a token of appreciation for your time and effort, we offer a small compensation for each gig you are able to arrange.

This is a great opportunity to gain experience in advocacy, outreach, and event planning while helping to promote LEAP's message. If you are interested in volunteering, please email me with your name, city, country and relevant experience."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stalin's 5 year plans

The older among you may remember the Soviet Union 5 year plans. What used to happen was the Governing body, would declare targets for agriculture, manufacturing, mineral and coal production etc. to be reached during the next 5 years. Invariably the Commisars from the different regions would boast about reaching and surpassing those targets in the regions under their jurisdictions. However the reality was far short, millions continued to starve, production usually fell and where it rose the products manufuctured were invariably seriously flawed and often useless. The boasting continued, till almost the fall of the Soviet era.
Almost every statement out of the DEA and other prohibition groups, reminds me of that era in the Soviet Union. Invariable also empty boasts were unstainable and contributed to the implosion of the whole system. I suspect we are close to the same situation with the war on drugs.

Colby Cosh on international drug policy

Colby Cosh has a column in the National Post today about drug policy. He examines the U.S. government reaction (or lack of it) to decriminalization in Mexico, and the recent court ruling in Argentina:

"Say, are we still having that debate over whether the United States constitutes an empire? I remember the idea seeming controversial a few years back. In 2009, the whole idea of disagreeing with it seems quaint. But maybe things will look different in a few more years. Empires do not rise and fall monotonically; they expand and contract, relax and relent. In an extraordinary turn of events, Caesar has temporarily turned a blind eye to the policing of morals in the provinces, allowing startling drug reforms in two major "partner" states."

Read the full column here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Topics for discussion

My hope is that this blog will be more substantial than repeatedly stating, "Prohibition bad. Legalization good." I would like this blog to become a wide ranging discussion about a number of different topics. Here are some of my ideas for blog posts:

-What are some options for how stimulants could be regulated?
-Should there be changes to how alcohol is regulated?
-Creative fundraising ideas for LEAP.
-The role of a police officer.
-How can we recruit more LEAP speakers?
-What is dexamphetamine?
-How can we increase LEAP's membership by a factor of ten?
-What will happen to medicinal marijuana programs after marijuana is legalized?

What topics would you like to see discussed?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Speaking out against drug legalization

Yes, you did read the title correctly. "Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization" is the title of a booklet published by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2003. The 26 page booklet promotes ten facts that are relevant to the drug policy reform debate.

All of the facts support the status quo and oppose the regulation of drugs. Here is fact #1, for example:

"Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts."

I haven't read the entire document yet, but I will over the next few weeks. I am going to examine each of the ten facts and publish an analysis here on the blog. Feel free to add your own thoughts and opinions as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Court ruling from Argentina

Today a court in Argentina ruled that it is unconstitutional to penalize citizens for possessing marijuana for personal use, provided they consumed it privately without hurting anyone else. From the article:

"The unanimous ruling makes Argentina the second Latin American country in the past four days to allow personal use of a formerly illegal drug.

The case in question involved five young men who were arrested for having a few marijuana cigarettes in their pockets.

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt, who at one time supported laws that make personal use of marijuana illegal, told the state-run Telam news agency that "reality" changed his mind.

Argentina's action came amid growing momentum in Latin America toward decriminalization of possessing small amounts of certain drugs."

According to Wikipedia, Argentina is the second biggest country in South America and has a population of roughly 40 million.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mark Haden's PowerPoint

Mark Haden works for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in Canada, where he supervises a team of addictions staff.

His web site has a number of great resources for anyone interested in drug policy reform. I would like to draw your attention to two of them.

First, he's drawn up an Excel spreadsheet titled, "Post Prohibition Drug Control Systems." LEAP does not have an official position on how drugs should be regulated once prohibition ends. We leave that for state and federal governments to decide. However, Haden's spreadsheet is useful for anyone thinking about the issue, and it shows the many different ways in which drugs can be regulated.

Second, he has a PowerPoint based video presentation titled, "A Public Health Approach to Illegal Drug Use." The 65 minute presentation is mostly skewed toward examining drug policy in Canada, although much of the information is applicable to other Western countries.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

200 Weeks

200 Weeks is a blogger from the UK. The name comes from the date he started his blog. At the time, he was two hundred weeks away from retiring as a police officer. That was in August 2005. Since then, he retired from policing but then was rehired as a dispatcher. He continues to blog daily about many different aspects of law enforcement.

In a post titled "The Biggie," he tackled the subject of drug prohibition. It is a detailed, fact based analysis, and I would encourage you to read it. After reviewing the evidence, he came to this conclusion:

"It all leads up to this really and I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer but I do think that it is a better solution than we have now.

Legalise Drugs.

And I don’t mean open sweetie shops selling them to anyone who wants them, I mean legally regulated and controlled. Policies in Holland, Portugal, Switzerland & Russia are seeing some drugs decriminalised. We already have a system for handing out drugs through pharmacies and doctors where people can get good quality health advice and guidance and don’t need to jack up using shared needles round the back of some derelict crack house.

Take production out of the hands of the drugs barons, produce a product which is not mixed with baking powder or anything else that happens to be lying around, which is as safe as it can be and is of measured quantity so you know how much to take and don’t need to risk an OD."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a non-profit organization. For obvious reasons, we don't get a lot of government grants. Membership in LEAP is free; there are no signup fees or membership dues. This means we rely heavily on donations.

What do we do with this money? For starters, we put up this billboard in Omaha, Nebraska. And we've sent current and former law enforcement officers all over the world to give talks, recruit new speakers, talk to politicians and speak to the media about the War on Drugs. Gradually, we are seeing success. On August 19th, for example, Mexico decriminalized possession of small quantities of drugs. Mexico has a long way to go, but this is a good start.

Help us put up a billboard in your state. Click here to donate to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. For any donation over $5, we'll mail you a LEAP membership badge. Anything helps but please dig deep and send $15, $25 or even $50 to help us reverse the failed policy of drug prohibition.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Best of the old: The drug money trail

There are a lot of great posts in LEAP's archive from our old blog. The following post by Terry Nelson is one of my favorites, so I'm posting it again. On September 16th, 2008, he wrote:

I am often asked why more police do not support LEAP. While many police officers know very well that they will never arrest their way out of the drug war and do support LEAP’s purpose, the department management is sometimes against legalization.

A recent article by Ronald Fraser in the Tallahassee, Fl. newspaper presents the reality of America’s War on Drugs. He reports that on the streets where illegal drugs are still easy to get at affordable prices, Florida's police chiefs are losing the decades-long drug war. But, ironically, back in their precinct headquarters, many of these officials depend on drug raids to fatten their operating budgets. While the drug trade still enriches the bad guys, police chiefs now get a piece of the action. One study reports that 40 percent of the nation's local police agencies are dependent on seized assets as a necessary budgetary supplement.

Many states, wary of overzealous police departments, require that the proceeds from seized assets be used for education or other non police purposes. But the 1984 federal Comprehensive Crime Control Act, a turning point in America's war on drugs, provided a way to get around these state laws.

State and local police departments, working with U.S. agents, federalize money and property seized during local drug raids. The federal government gets at least 20 percent of the seized assets, but the feds give back up to 80 percent of the seizure — now exempt from state law — to state and local police agencies.

According to federal statistics, the share going to Florida law enforcement agencies went from $16 million in 2000 to $29 million in 2007. Nationally, state and local agencies collected $416 million in 2007, up from $212 million in 2000.

Why is this bad news?

Originally the primary reason police seized assets was to break up the illegal drug supply lines. Today, however, that original reason has been replaced by self-serving budgetary considerations. Citizens should legitimately ask why their local police force conducts drug raids. Is it to rid the town of drugs — or are the raids an easy source of extra income that harms innocent people along the way?

What to do? It is time for federal and state legislators to shut down the conflict of interest loophole that allows police departments to profit from their official duties at the expense of the very citizens they are hired to protect.

As current and former officers we know that legalization will drastically reduce the crime and violence surrounding drug smuggling. Let's spend the money saved on education and treatment instead of incarceration. We all want a better future for ourselves and our children.

(Editor's note: the original link to the article in the Tallahassee Democrat is no longer active, but the web site of the Tuscan Citizen is still showing a similar article by the same author - Ronald Fraser - but tailored to Arizona instead of Florida.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NYT's Kristof: We Need a "Rethink of Our Drug Policy"

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has an excellent piece today calling for a fundamental rethinking of our nation's approach to drugs and crime, especially in this time of severe economic restraints.

Astonishingly, many politicians seem to think that we should lead the world in prisons, not in health care or education. The United States is anomalous among industrialized countries in the high proportion of people we incarcerate; likewise, we stand out in the high proportion of people who have no medical care — and partly as a result, our health care outcomes such as life expectancy and infant mortality are unusually poor.

It’s time for a fundamental re-evaluation of the criminal justice system, as legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Webb has called for, so that we’re no longer squandering money that would be far better spent on education or health.


Above all, it’s time for a rethink of our drug policy. The point is not to surrender to narcotics, but to learn from our approach to both tobacco and alcohol. Over time, we have developed public health strategies that have been quite successful in reducing the harm from smoking and drinking.
Kristof previously profiled LEAP's Norm Stamper, former Seattle Police Chief, in his Times column.

Chicago drug bust. So what?

The "most significant drug importation conspiracies ever charged in Chicago" says the US Attorney.
Federal authorities have disrupted a massive cocaine operation that was bringing 1,500 to 2,000 kilos of cocaine a month to Chicago from the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, in what law enforcement is calling the most significant drug conspiracy ever to be broken up in Chicago.

Thirty-six people in Chicago and Mexico were indicted.
Authorities, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, are seeking to seize $1.8 billion in cash.
The whole story by Natasha Korecki in the Chicago Sun Times.

And so what? This will result in: 1) More money spend on prison (and yes, I see how this is not a good example of my general position on immigrants), 2) more violence (and police death) in Mexico, and 3) somebody else bringing in the drugs to supply the heroin and cocaine needs of Chicago and the Midwest.

Notice how there isn't even talk about this 1) will make our streets safer, 2) lower drug use, or 3) increase the street prices for the drugs. The last point is downright bizarre, because no drug bust ever seems to increase price (except in the very shortest of terms). Even I can see how if you disrupt a major supplier, supply should go down, and prices up. But that never needs to be the case.

[from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood]

Philadelphia is broke

Wow. Philadelphia is looking at cutting 1000 police officers and 200 firefighters. According to the Mayor, the court system is facing a virtual shutdown over a 1.4 billion dollar deficit.

Does anyone have any idea how Philadelphia could save some money?

Blog philosophy

Every blog approaches its subject matter differently. I have some ideas about the LEAP blog that I would like to share with you.

Traditionally, the LEAP blog has been written exclusively by LEAP speakers, but I would like to see a more diverse range of authors. This might include people who are not criminal justice professionals but who are subject matter experts in a particular area. It might include people whom I have verified are law enforcement officers but who are going to publish under a pen name in order to protect their careers. (If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact me.) It might even include the occasional post from those who support the status quo. There's nothing wrong with listening to the arguments of the other side, and this kind of engagement can draw people into the debate and change minds.

Finally, LEAP is not a political organization. It is a U.S. Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. In plain English, this means that we are a group comprised mainly of volunteers, we welcome support from across the political spectrum and we'll accept donations from almost anyone. However, this also creates some restrictions in terms of how LEAP operates. We can't lobby, for example. And when writing posts for this blog, LEAP speakers are not going to be criticizing political parties in a partisan manner. We might offer some constructive policy advice, but we're going to stay away from ad hominen attacks. And if our posts include facts or statistics, we will include links or references to our sources.

Since this blog is for LEAP supporters, I am also interested in your input. What features should we include? What topics should we cover? Let me know.

Overdose Deaths

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that first priority of drug policy should be save lives. We all know about drug-related (ie: prohibition) violence, but shockingly little attention is paid to the 20,000 drug overdose deaths every year. That's a rate of just under 7 per 100,000.

Meanwhile the Netherlands has about 120 drug overdose deaths per year. This is a rate of 0.75 per 100,000.

So the US, with all our money and prisons and police and people who wish to "send the right message" has this problem:
The mortality rates from unintentional drug overdose (not including alcohol) have risen steadily since the early 1970s, and over the past ten years they have reached historic highs. Rates are currently 4 to 5 times higher than the rates during the “black tar” heroin epidemic in the mid-1970s and more than twice what they were during the peak years of crack cocaine in the early 1990s. The rate shown for 2005 translates into 22,400 unintentional and intentional drug overdose deaths. To put this in context, just over 17,000 homicides occurred in 2005.
So if we adopted dutch policies toward drugs (the dutch rate wasn't always so low, by the way) and could get our rate down to that seen in the Netherlands, we could save close to 20,000 lives per year.

But we choose not to.

Somehow, according to prohibitionists, saving lives sends the wrong message. "If drugs don't kill, how will people know they're bad?!" I've heard the argument many times. It's pretty dumb. First of all, if drug don't kill, they're not so bad. Second, since our drugs do kill, why do we still lead the world in drug abuse?

How do you save lives? Some of it is shockingly simple. For starters:

1) Give out Narcan.

2) Pass good Samaritan laws protecting those who call ambulances for people who overdose.

3) Treat drug abuse like a health problem.

[from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Snitching Blog

Alexandra Natapoff is a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She specializes in studying the role of snitches in the criminal justice system.

She recently launched the Snitching Blog. So far it focuses on the United States, although hopefully she'll expand her commentary to Canada, Australia and other countries. There is also a great seven minute YouTube video of her testimony about informants at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The use of informants in policing is vital. They are often the key to solving serious crimes such as murders, bank robberies, etc. However, informants can also create serious problems in terms of liability, safety and credibility. Police departments need to have strong policies in this area and individual officers need to tread carefully.

Another area of concern is the use of confidential sources to prosecute consensual crimes such as drug trafficking. Sometimes an informant who committed a non-consensual crime will get released from custody or even have charges dropped in exchange for information about a drug dealer. (A non-consensual crime is one that involves an actual victim, such as a theft or an assault.) Does this make sense? Where should the enforcement priority lie?

Clearly there are lots of ethical and practical issues around the use of informants and I look forward to learning more through her blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Report from Pittsburgh

Jack Cole, myself and a civilian volunteer, George, spent three days at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh. NN is an annual convention for progressive bloggers that grew out of the success of the Daily Kos blog.

I was part of a panel called "After the Shooting Stops," which focused on drug policy reform. It included moderator Ryan Grim, Professor Mark Kleiman, libertarian Radly Balko (aka The Agitator) and Professor Jonathan Caulkins.

With four panelists, one moderator and Q & A from the audience, we had to keep our comments brief. I introduced LEAP and explained the need for ending drug prohibition. A debate ensued with Kleiman and Caulkins opposed to legalizing and regulating drugs, although they both appeared to leave the door open when it came to marijuana reform. Although neither wanted to end drug prohibition, they demonstrated a strong interest in reforming other parts of the U.S. criminal justice system, and I felt they both had some good ideas in that regard.

One frustrating part of the panel was when Mark Kleiman said he had walked by the LEAP exhibit booth and noticed a poster that stated "98%" of those asked would not try heroin or cocaine if it was legal. He suggested that the 2% who would try hard drugs was higher than historical drug use rates, and therefore legalization was a bad policy. I didn't get a chance to respond to this at the time, but the poster in question actually stated 99%, not 98%. This statistic came from a Zogby poll taken in October 2007 of 1028 likely voters. Only 0.6% said "yes," 0.4% said they weren't sure, and the remaining 99% said "no." Interestingly, 100% of the 18-34 age group said "no." (Given the margin of error with most polls it would be helpful to see results of several polls done over a period of time.)

During our last day, Jack went to the RightOnline convention, which was also being held in Pittsburgh. RightOnline is the conservative equivalent of Netroots Nation. He was able to sign up some members there, which speaks to the fact that drug prohibition is an issue with detractors across the political spectrum. All told, LEAP signed up over one hundred new members from both conventions, including some of the most influential bloggers in the United States.

Last but not least, these conventions inspired us to start the new blog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Op-ed in Washington Post

Peter Moskos and Neil Franklin have a great op-ed piece in today's Washington Post, "It's Time to Legalize Drugs."

The various comments submitted by readers are overwhelmingly in favour of some form of legalization/decriminalization.


Welcome to the new LEAP blog! Our old blog contained almost 400 posts, published over a three year period. However, we have moved over to Blogger in order to make it easier for users to leave comments as well as taking advantage of many other features offered by Blogger.

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