Monday, November 30, 2009

Save our Police Budgets: Legalize and Tax Marijuana

The following article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Blue Line (Canada's national law enforcement magazine). It was titled "Save our Police Budgets: Legalize and Tax Marijuana." This is my second article in Blue Line. The first one was published in June and it was titled The Failure of Drug Prohibition: A Law Enforcement Perspective. In this new essay I am using some of the arguments promoted by SAFER (ie. marijuana is safer than alcohol, so why are we driving people to drink?). If you like this article please Digg it!

Save our Police Budgets: Legalize and Tax Marijuana

Michael Klimm raised a number of excellent points in his letter published in the August issue of Blue Line. Although he argued against legalizing and regulating drugs, several of his statements were compatible with drug policy reform. First, he acknowledged the status quo is not working. Second, he stated that the damage caused by tobacco - a dangerous but legal substance - has been reduced through education. Third, he asserted the best way to tackle organized crime is to remove the profit motive from the black market. Finally, he emphasized that the legalization and regulation of drugs has not yet been tried anywhere in the world. With these key points in mind, perhaps it is time for a new approach?

Marijuana policy would be a good place to begin as 53 percent of the population supported legalization in a 2008 Angus Reid poll. Approximately 44 percent of Canadians have used cannabis at some point in their lives according to the Canadian Addiction Survey. Despite heavy enforcement, it remains the largest illegal drug market in the country with over two million citizens using cannabis on a recreational basis. A legal and regulated cannabis market would therefore eliminate the majority of all domestic drug trafficking in Canada.

Marijuana is not a benign substance, but it is substantially safer than alcohol. Assaults against peace officers, sexual assaults and incidents of domestic violence are frequently traced back to liquor consumption but rarely to cannabis consumption. Many of us know friends or colleagues whose personal and professional lives were ruined through alcohol abuse. Upstanding citizens have committed terrible crimes while drunk, and yet Canadians remain legally bound to abstain from using marijuana. It is time to present the public with a safer, legal alternative to alcohol.

Unfortunately, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police / Canadian Police Association joint resolution on drug abuse in 2002 insisted on the status quo. Now, seven years later, federal, provincial and municipal governments are broke. Police organizations are facing budget cuts, although leaders in law enforcement can still increase the long term financial health of their respective agencies by supporting an end to marijuana prohibition. It is the least painful concession to make, especially compared to wage rollbacks, hiring freezes and training cutbacks.

Critics might point to the Netherlands and offer anecdotal reports of a failed drug policy, but the facts show otherwise. The country adopted de facto decriminalization in 1976. Adults can buy personal amounts of marijuana in licensed outlets known as cannabis coffee shops. Alcohol is banned in the coffee shops and advertising is prohibited. Overall the system works well, although one problem is that the actual production and distribution of marijuana remains illegal. Organized crime is still involved in that part of the industry which is why it is important for Canada to legalize the entire supply chain.

The Netherlands has a cumulative lifetime incidence of cannabis use that is half that of the United States (19.4% versus 42.4%). Its cumulative incidence of cocaine use is one eighth that of the United States (1.9% versus 16.2%) according to data from the World Mental Health Surveys as compiled by the World Health Organization. The United States uses a tough justice approach with drug offenders, and yet per capita drug use rates, overdose deaths and HIV infections are significantly lower in the Netherlands. Why is this?

It appears the Netherlands’ tolerant attitude toward drugs has reduced the forbidden fruit effect. There is nothing rebellious about smoking marijuana in Amsterdam. In addition, they have separated the cannabis market from other drugs. Cashiers in the coffee shops don't lace marijuana with crystal meth or give away free samples of cocaine. In contrast, Canadians face a multitude of dangers when purchasing marijuana on our city streets.

At the end of the day, it is easy to look into our past and determine which social policies were just and effective. For example, contraception was legalized forty years ago with the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-1969. Prior to the Act it was illegal to advertise or sell condoms or other forms of birth control. The Pill was only prescribed to women who needed help regulating their menstrual cycle. In other words, it could only be used for medicinal purposes. (Does this kind of language sound familiar?) Today, few officers could imagine using criminal law to prevent the sale of birth control pills, in spite of their harmful side effects.

It is more difficult to look forty years into the future and consider how our children and our grandchildren will judge our actions as law enforcement officers. Institutional inertia is not a good enough reason to maintain a prohibition on marijuana or any other drug. Regulating cannabis would provide a safer alternative to alcohol, eliminate most domestic drug trafficking, generate tax revenue, free up police resources and reduce abuse by young people.

What are we waiting for?

David Bratzer is a police officer in British Columbia, Canada, and he also manages the blog for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( The opinions expressed in his essay are entirely his own.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Google Wave for Drug Policy Reform

Google is in the midst of launching a new product called Google Wave. They call it a "real time collaborative communication tool." What the heck does that mean??? As far as I can tell, Google Wave enables people to discuss and edit documents together while online. This is incredibly useful if your group happens to be scattered throughout the world as it allows you to set up a sort of "virtual office."

I have a hunch that Google Wave is going to be a Good Thing for drug policy reform. Various organizations will use it to share information, train new volunteers, develop policy documents and plan complex projects. I haven't used Google Wave very much yet, but my hope is that it will be useful for groups like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Right now Google Wave is accessible by invitation only. I have four invites left, so if you want one just send me an email ( and I will send it to you. It's first come, first serve and I'll update this post again once all my invites are gone.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Does Mexico's President Calderon Want to Legalize Drugs?

Check out this snippet from a report from the Latin American Herald Tribune:
About the possible legalization of drug use, the president said that such an approach was not feasible “without (global) agreement on public policies.”

He said the objective is to “end the economic power of the black market for drugs,” but that cannot be done as long as drugs remain illegal in some countries and not in others.
Is he hinting that he wants the U.S. and other countries to legalize drugs?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Testimony on Bill C-15 before the Canadian Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Here is my testimony on Bill C-15 which introduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug production and trafficking offences in Canada.

By the way, I'm now on Twitter if anyone wants to follow me. And you can also post your twitter address in the comments section and I'll check it out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crack down on organized crime and save addicts — Legalize Hard Drugs

Well I'm here in Calgary airport waiting for a connecting flight to Victoria. Ottawa was great although the jet lag is hitting me hard right now. Testifying in front of the Senate committee was an amazing experience but I will write about it later as I'm still digesting the whole thing.

This Magazine is a small but influential magazine published in Canada since 1966. Their theme this month is "legalize everything," and Katie Addleman has a lengthy article about drug policy in the issue. It includes interviews with retired judge Jerry Paradis, LEAP executive director Jack Cole as well as myself. The piece is titled, "Crack down on organized crime and save addicts — Legalize Hard Drugs."

Also, we have a new member in the LEAP speakers bureau: William (Bill) Cooke. He spent four years as a prosecutor with State's [Maryland] Attorney's Office for Baltimore City. (I can't even imagine how busy he must have been.) Bill has agreed to become a co-author on the blog and I'm looking forward to reading his posts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Twilight stamped on baggies of heroin?

I'm off to Ottawa in a couple of hours to testify about Bill C-15 before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Posting on the blog might be light for a couple of days.

This is quite interesting: apparently some baggies of heroin sold in New York state have "Twilight" images stamped on them. I guess there's nothing like the black market to figure out the most effective way to market drugs to your teens and tweens!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Submit marijuana polling question to CBC

The CBC, a national television station in Canada, is looking for polling questions. Please submit this question or a variation of it: "Should the government of Canada repeal marijuana prohibition and replace it with a legal, regulated and taxed system of production and distribution to adult consumers?" (Thanks go to Mark Haden and Kirk Tousaw for the heads up.)

Questions can be submitted to This is a great opportunity to get new polling data on marijuana legalization in Canada. As far as I know the last major poll was in May 2008 by Angus Reid and it showed 53% support for legalizing marijuana. Support for legalizing more serious drugs like cocaine and heroin was between 7 and 9%.

The results of the poll will be presented on Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

By the way, I'll be in Ottawa on November 25 to testify before the Senate Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs. I'll be talking about Bill C-15 which creates mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. My part will be at 6pm EST and it will be webcast if you're interested.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: LEAP Forces DEA to Change Website, Problems Still Remain

Thanks to everyone who took action and contacted Attorney General Eric Holder this week, the DEA has removed from its website one false claim that the American Medical Association opposes medical marijuana.

This is a significant victory for truth, but we're not done yet. Believe it or not, other government websites hosted by DEA and the White house "drug czar" are still claiming that the AMA opposes medical marijuana.

Please visit to take action now. Tell Attorney General Eric Holder and "Drug Czar" Gil Kerlikowske that the government should stop using taxpayer money to spread misinformation about important topics like medical marijuana.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ACTION ALERT: Force DEA to Tell the Truth About Medical Marijuana

In a significant reversal, the American Medical Association on November 10 acknowledged the medical value of marijuana and called for the U.S. government to reconsider marijuana's current classification as a Schedule I substance (drugs that the government says have "no currently accepted medical use").

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still claims on its website that, "The American Medical Association recommends that marijuana remain a Schedule I controlled substance."

Please use the form at to send a message to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice, asking them to correct this misinformation on a government website.

Why doesn't Google like us?

Overall I am happy with the progress made by the LEAP blog, but one area that could be improved is search engine traffic. Here is a graph from Google Analytics regarding the traffic sources for the LEAP blog:

This covers a one month period (from October 17th to November 17th). As you can see, we get most of our traffic from referring sites, which is great. It means we have lots of allies in the world of drug policy who want to tell their friends, colleagues, family members and customers about our blog.

What concerns me is the tiny amount of traffic generated by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc. It is under 3%. It makes me wonder if I've set the blog up incorrectly and somehow we're now getting penalized in the search rankings. As you can see in the graph below, we are only getting around five to ten visits from search engines per day:

Are there any web gurus out there with ideas on how to change this?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ethan Nadelmann's speech

Looking for inspiration? Check out the video of Ethan Nadelmann's opening speech at the Reform Conference. It's 36 minutes long but worth watching the whole thing, especially if you haven't seen him speak before. He thanks LEAP at the 34 minute mark.

Peter Christ in The Buffalo News

The Buffalo News has a good article about a women who found herself asked to be a confidential informant after she was caught for driving without a license. It quotes Peter Christ:
Peter Christ, who retired from the Tonawanda Police Department as a captain and founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said recruiting someone who doesn't use drugs as a drug informant is one of the reasons America is losing the war on drugs.

"When you have a doomed, failed policy," Christ said, whose organization now has more than 2,000 former cops working against the country's drug policies, "these are the kinds of things you do to try to make it seem like it's working."
By the way, if you like reading about informant related issues, check out The Snitching Blog by Alexandra Natapoff.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Banner for LEAP blog

Frank Discussion - a Canadian web site devoted to drug policy facts and statistics - has created a banner for the LEAP blog:

(You might have to click the image to view it at full size.)

Please feel free to use this on your own web sites. Thanks FrankD!

The Pig Mural

I have an op-ed piece in my local paper today (here is the original news article). My essay is about hate speech rather than drug policy, but there is one small connection that I would like to point out. The drug legalization debate is a polarizing issue. It is often framed in terms of "us" versus "them" (err... even though "I" am technically one of "them"). We often have strong feelings about the issue and sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. However, no matter how passionate we may feel about this issue, we should never promote hatred in the pursuit of drug policy reform.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Thinking Policeman

Lex Ferenda has a post opposing drug legalization on The Thinking Policeman blog.

Now, I love The Thinking Policeman. It is a team blog with several different authors and frequent guest posts. I like its variety, its philosophical approach and its British perspective. Several months ago, the original author of the blog was kind enough to publish a guest post that I wrote. And a recent post inspired me to order a book from, and I almost never do things like that. (The book is titled Criminal Investigative Failures, if you're interested.)

Here are a couple of general comments for Lex:

1) Do you have any evidence or statistics to back up your claims, or are you simply making broad generalizations?

2) Regarding your comment, "There is no overarching strategy and solution to the problem just disparate suggestions based mainly around the contention that the current strategy does not work." The issue of regulation is difficult as it would vary depending on the province and country. However, Transform just launched a free book on how to regulate drugs. It's called After the War on Drugs: Blueprints for Regulation.

3) Are you going to begin lobbying for the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco? This is the natural extension of the argument you are making.

4) Organized crime might divert into child pornography or human trafficking if drugs became legal and regulated. However, public support for kiddie porn is substantially less than the public support for marijuana. Also, there would be far more police resources to tackle child porn if there was no War on Drugs.

5) You say the government is going to give away free drugs, and in the same paragraph suggest that drug dealers will lower their prices to create a price war and bankrupt the government. How can the drug dealers lower their prices below "free"? Also, who says that legal, regulated markets will result in free drugs issued by the government? And, even if that does happen, a cost-benefit analysis might show that money is saved in the long run through lower HIV infection rates, less property crime, etc.

6) No one is suggesting drugs will disappear. It is the prohibitionists who believe that drug use can be eliminated. The anti-prohibitionists recognize that drugs have been used by societies for thousands of years, and will remain part of our society in the future. We want to minimize the harm caused by the prohibition of drugs, such as gang violence over control of the black market.

7) You suggest that "Dealers should be hunted down, imprisoned for a long time and every penny they own seized." Jail does not deter a drug dealer. He has already chosen a job that comes with the occupational hazard of being murdered, execution style. Also, it is important to note this has been tried already in the United States. The tough justice approach worked so well they now have the highest incarceration rate in the world. They have more black men incarcerated per capita than South Africa during apartheid. Various states are going bankrupt because their prisons are bursting at the seams. Their drug use rates, incarcerations rates, overdose deaths, HIV infections and crime rates are all higher than the European countries that use a "soft" approach to drugs.

8) Regarding decriminalization in Portugal, you state that "All Portugal has achieved is a reduction in drug usage to a similar level to the rest of Europe." So if this can be achieved without a criminal justice approach, why should countries spend money on judges, police, lawyers and jails if they don't have to?

If you have any thoughts for Lex you can leave him a comment on his blog. But please be civil about it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

AMA reconsiders cannabis

The American Medical Association is reconsidering how cannabis should be scheduled (hat tip: Rhayader). Obviously the AMA carries a lot of weight so this is big news. You can view their committee minutes here (the cannabis recommendations begin on page 12). Americans for Safe Access has also issued a press release about this. Here's an excerpt:

The American Medical Association (AMA) voted today to reverse its long-held position that marijuana be retained as a Schedule I substance with no medical value. The AMA adopted a report drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH) entitled, "Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes," which affirmed the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and called for further research. The CSAPH report concluded that, "short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis." Furthermore, the report urges that "the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods."

On another topic entirely: I have an opinion piece in the November edition of Blue Line (Canada's national law enforcement magazine). It includes the URL of this blog in the author byline, so there might be some more officers reading this blog over the next few weeks. The article is titled "Save our police budgets: Legalize and tax marijuana." It's not online yet but I will try to get a PDF copy at some point.

Monday, November 9, 2009

LEAP Debate Featured By CBS News

LEAP's Judge James Gray goes head to head with Drug-Free America Foundation's David Evans in this CBS News point-counterpoint debate on the failure of marijuana prohibition. Part two of the debate is set to be uploaded Tuesday. Who do you think is winning so far? ;-)

Connecticut Governor Calls for Marijuana Legalization?

UPDATE: So, it turns out that these "budget suggestions" aren't actually from the governor, but are from state employees participating in the governor's Innovative Ideas Initiative (I3). Click here for more information. Really, it would have been helpful if the state put a notation on each page of "budget suggestions" laying this out instead of just showing a big picture of the governor's face and letting everyone think they were her ideas. We apologize for any confusion.

Governor Jodi Rell, Republican of Connecticut, who previously vetoed a medical marijuana bill, is now calling for legalization marijuana outright!

Either that, or her website has been hacked. Hrmmm:
January 9, 2009: Decriminalize marijuana – allow for medicinal purposes and collect taxes on it purchase. Create a tax stamp for these packages – anyone caught with a bag of marijuana without the stamp should face harsher penalties than someone caught with a bag with a stamp.

February 3, 2009: Legalize marijuana and have the Department of Agriculture grow it for sale in 1 ounce bags -- sell it over the Internet.

March 2, 2009: Increase revenue by legalizing marijuana and administering its sale and tax to be sold in pharmacies as well as in liquor stores. Apply law enforcement standards currently used for alcohol. This would save money in not having to chase drug dealers and generate huge revenues.
We just found out about these postings today, despite the dates. No one we've talked with in drug policy reform seems to know anything about when or how this was uploaded to the governor's site, so please let us know if you have any information in the comments section.

LTE: Police pursuits and the drug war

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by LEAP speaker James E. Gierach to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Valerie Davis, the 42-year-old woman killed this week in a cops-chase-drug-suspect scenario, would be alive today if drugs were legalized, controlled and regulated. And the drug suspect, now a murder suspect, would have been doing something else for a living, if drugs were legalized. (“Drugs suspects fleeing cops ram into car; woman killed,” Chicago Sun-Times, 11/4/09) Also a drug agent’s bullet fired in the excitement of the chase would not have risked killing innocent bystanders in the Washington Park neighborhood. In sum, drug agents escalated a drug-prohibition violation into the death of an innocent motorist that could have been anyone of us.

If drugs were legalized, some of the drug agents involved in this botched drug-enforcement operation could get a job making something and constructively contributing to American society and gross domestic product. Instead a woman is dead, needlessly, and some drug buyers will be momentarily inconvenienced as they switch drug dealers. A drug suspect will likely go to prison for murder. The taxpayers will get the bill, and Valerie’s relatives get to cry.

Truly – wasteful, counter-productive, deadly, expensive and futile folly. But that’s the drug war in a nutshell.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Medical Marijuana Laws, a Work in Progress

If we want people to take medical marijuana seriously as medicine, we need to treat it like medicine. Compared to most FDA approved drugs, marijuana is a fairly safe drug, but it does have a potential for being abused.

I know the majority of people in California favor legalizing marijuana, and I agree, but for now it’s only legal as medicine. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the California medical marijuana law is being abused.

It seems everyone is addicted to money from marijuana. Everyone from patients who sell their excess marijuana, to legal and illegal growers, dispensaries, law enforcement, and even the doctors who do medical marijuana recommends.

In California growers can sell their marijuana wholesale for up to $4000.00 a pound, dispensaries add another $3600.00 a pound, that’s $7600.00. Today the price of gold is $1044.00 an ounce, the retail price of medical marijuana is around $475.00 an ounce. Only 10 outdoor marijuana plants can produce 20 pounds of high quality marijuana in six months, that’s $76,000.00, or the equivalent of producing 72.7 ounces of gold in your backyard. It’s these enormous profits that draw everyone from the guy next door, to organized criminal groups, and doctors to the profits from medical marijuana.

Even doctors are addicted to medical marijuana money. Doctors in the course of their regular practice should recommend marijuana, not medical practices setup to only recommend medical marijuana.

A doctor seeing 20 patients a day, and charging $150.00 for a medical marijuana recommendation, makes $3000.00 a day, $60,000.00 a month, or $720,000.00 a year. If some doctor was making $720,000.00 a year prescribing morphine, the medical board would shut them down in a heart beat.

I know a lot of people are upset by the dispensary raids lately in California, but the intent of the Compassionate Use Act was not for people to get rich selling medical marijuana. The intent of the Compassionate Use Act, was to help sick people get the medicine they need, but the absolute greed of the drug war has continued with medical marijuana.

How did wanting to help sick people, get translated into selling an easy to grow plant for almost its weight in gold. California is going through some adjustments as law makers, and law enforcement evaluate the intent of their medical marijuana law.

Many people disagree with dispensaries being required to document where their marijuana comes from, but without documentation how can we know where the marijuana came from? A grow ran by a couple of buddies out to make some money, or a Mexican cartel, a criminal organization, or worse yet someone who supports our enemies. I’m not trying to tie marijuana to terrorist or anything, but you must agree that it’s an easy way for any type of organization to raise a lot of money.

When I give LEAP presentations, I always tell people that until we remove the enormous profits from drugs, in this case marijuana, that drug dealers, and not the government will control, where marijuana is grown, where it’s sold, who it’s sold to, at what price, to what age customers, and where the profits go.

If the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act Initiative is approved by voters in 2010, it will attempt to remove the profits from medical marijuana by requiring dispensaries to operate on a not-for-profit basis; dispensaries may acquire marijuana from registered patients only if they receive no compensation. In California registered patients and other growers wholesale their excess marijuana for $3000-$4000.00 a pound.

Removing the profits for growers, and requiring dispensaries to only charge the actual costs to grow and operate their business, should go a long way to making medical marijuana more affordable for patients, and removing the profits that drive illegal grow operations.

Alcohol prohibition was an experiment, in 1919 looked like a good idea, but by 1933 we knew the experiment was a failure. Each new law is an experiment, some are good laws, some are bad laws, and some are a work in progress, like the Compassionate Use Act in California. Hopefully the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act Initiative will remove the profits from medical marijuana. As long as we look at history, and not make the same mistakes again and again, we’ll be ok.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Press Release: Fmr. N.M. Governor Speaks Against "Drug War"

NEWS ADVISORY: November 5, 2009
CONTACT: Shaleen Title - speakers //at//
Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media //at//


Governor Teams Up With Group of Cops Who Want to Legalize All Drugs

ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will speak Tuesday night alongside a former DEA task force leader about their joint campaign to legalize and regulate all drugs.

Gov. Johnson, who is the highest-ranking elected official in the U.S. to advocate the repeal of drug prohibition, and former U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg will discuss their involvement with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and how many police, prosecutors and judges now feel that arresting and locking up our citizens isn’t the answer to our drug problems.

WHO: Former N.M. Governor Gary Johnson & Matthew Fogg, former U.S. Marshal

WHAT: Presentation, “Trusted U.S. Officials Make the Case Against the Drug War”

WHEN: Tuesday, November 10 @ 7:00 P.M.

WHERE: University of New Mexico's Student Union; Lobo Room

The talk comes on the eve of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, the biggest-ever get-together of activists, politicians, police officers, doctors, lawyers, students and others united against ending the nation’s failed and racist drug policies, taking place later in the week at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Matthew Fogg, in addition to having arrested hundreds of people on drug charges before having a change of heart, is a former vice president of Blacks in Government (BIG) and a recipient of the International Narcotics Officers Association Special Service award, the US Marshals Director's award and the US Attorney for the District of Columbia and Federal Bar Association awards for outstanding law enforcement service above and beyond the call of duty while in the line of fire.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a 15,000-member organization representing cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others who now want to legalize and regulate all drugs after witnessing horrors and injustices fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs." More info online at

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Drug deaths vs. press reports

I'm back on the blog after a busy week at work. And I seem to have recovered from the flu.

Now, this is an interesting graph. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

VIDEO: LEAP Talks Legalization on Fox News

Jack Cole, retired undercover narcotics detective and LEAP's executive director, went on Judge Andrew Napolitano's Fox News show to discuss the pair's mutual support for legalizing drugs after spending careers sending countless drug offenders to jail.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grassley Says Webb Commission Should "Do What We Tell Them To Do"

Sen. Charles Grassley, author of the censorship amendment to the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, was asked about his anti-speech tendencies by a reporter on a conference call today. The full transcript is below, but here's the most interesting part of what Sen. Grassley said: "[T]he point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs."

Also of note,the reporter then follows up to ask if his amendment would also ban discussion of medical marijuana by the commission, and the senator says "yes."

The best part just might be where Sen. Grassley tells the reporter that, "you want everything on the table." Yeah, except for sensible policy options like legalization, right?

Read on, and enjoy...
QUESTION: I hear there was an amendment to a bill tomorrow that would legally prevent some of the government's top advisers from -- according to some of the memos we've seen -- even discussing the idea of legalizing or decriminalizing drugs.

Can you talk a little bit about that? I understand that you pulled that amendment, but, nonetheless, I wanted to ask you what your intent is with that.

GRASSLEY: Well, my intent on that amendment isn't any different than any other amendments that are coming up. The Congress is setting up a commission to study certain things. And the commission is a -- is an arm of Congress, because Congress doesn't have time to review some of these laws.

And -- and -- and the point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs.

Their -- their program would be what we tell it it is. And one of the reasons that maybe there's -- there are several amendments that I floated around. And I probably only anticipated offering two or three of them anyway. You always circulate more amendments than you want to offer because you want everything on the table because once the agenda goes out, then it's too late to put something on the table without unanimous consent.

So -- and this isn't one of them.

But, getting back to what I started to say -- I got -- digressed there a little bit on explaining how the system works -- and that is that one of the things I think is going to come up is whether or not this commission on making recommendations has to have a simple majority or a super majority or maybe even by consensus. And the extent to which you get a larger percentage, particularly if it's consensus recommendations, you're probably going to get more reasonable and -- recommendations, and probably a narrower set of recommendations.

Actually, this is similar to, for instance, you probably don't remember this, but I was involved in rewriting the bankruptcy laws. Well, we set up a commission in the early 1990s, or maybe it was mid 1990s. They studied for two or three years and made recommendations. And -- and that was the basis for our legislation.

And so, this commission that Webb is suggesting would be a -- a basis for possible legislation in the future.

QUESTION: Would your amendment have even stopped the discussion of legalized marijuana for medical purposes?

GRASSLEY: I think that would not -- let's see. Yes, the extent to which it would be decriminalization, the answer is yes.



QUESTION: OK. Thank you. Thank you, Senator.

GRASSLEY: Yes, you bet.

The good thing is that Sen. Grassley seems to indicate that he is going to withdraw his amendment, but let's not take that for granted; please contact your senators right now and tell them to oppose censorship if they have to vote on this.

Audio of the senator defending his censorship amendment can be found here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Press Release: U.S. Senate to Vote on Censoring Legalization Debate

CONTACT: Tom Angell -- (202) 557-4979 or media //at//


Cops and Judges Urge Judiciary Committee to Allow Decriminalization Discussion

WASHINGTON, DC -- A group of police and judges who support legalizing drugs after witnessing the failure of the "war on drugs" is urging the U.S. Senate to reject an amendment that would prohibit government policy advisers from even discussing legalization or decriminalization.

The censorship amendment, authored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), could be voted on as soon as this Thursday, Nov. 5. If adopted during the Judiciary Committee markup for Sen. Jim Webb's National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S. 714), the rider would ban the commission from conducting any activities that "involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act."

"Senator Grassley’s censorship amendment would block what Senator Webb is trying to achieve with this bill," said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "All along, Senator Webb has said that in the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system 'nothing should be off the table.' That should include the obvious solution of ending the 'drug war' as a way to solve the unintended problems caused by that failed policy."

LEAP is urging people to visit and take action by sending a letter to their senators urging them to oppose the censorship amendment.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a 15,000-member organization representing cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens and others who now want to legalize and regulate all drugs after witnessing horrors and injustices fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs." More info online at

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Update: For this press release we also have a Digg submission that links directly to the form letter. Please visit this link and Digg the story (this is in addition to the Digg button below... it's sort of a two for one deal this time around.)

We've also added a Facebook button so you can share this with friends & family.

Don't Let Congress Censor Legalization Discussion

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee could vote as soon as this Thursday, November 5 on an amendment that will legally prevent some of the government's top advisers from even discussing the idea of legalizing or decriminalizing drugs as a solution to the failed "war on drugs."

Yes, you read that right. The Senate just might censor its own policy advisers from giving science-based advice.

The censorship amendment's author, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), is trying to attach the speech prohibition onto an otherwise positive bill that will create a blue ribbon commission to study our nation's failed criminal justice and drug policies. The commission is supposed to make recommendations for ways to improve the system, but how can they do that with the blindfold that Sen. Grassley's wants to put on them? Please take action at and tell your senators to oppose the censorship amendment!

The text of the Grassley censorship amendment can be viewed as a PDF here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Recently I met with a local group in Victoria to talk about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It was more of an informal chat rather than a presentation, but what was interesting about this group was that the meeting was organized through

The web site - - was launched in 2001 after 9/11. As co-founder Scott Heiferman explained, "The primary inspiration was the book 'Bowling Alone', which is by Harvard Sociologist Robert Putnam about the decline of community in America and how people don’t know there neighbors anymore. The Internet does a number of wonderful things, but it treats geography as irrelevant. We still live in a world where the local level is extremely important.".

We hear so much these days about Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other social networking web sites. seems to have fallen by the wayside. But has it? Searching through the site, I was able to find meet ups dedicated to a wide range of topics throughout the United States and Canada. For example, "Aussie's abroad in Houston, Texas" has 63 members. The "Cleveland Art Group" has 141 members. Toronto's "23 - 35 Social Club" has over 1300 members!

What is interesting about is that it is the only social networking web site dedicated to bringing people together in the real world. This makes it a great resource for speakers who are looking for places where they can give LEAP presentations. The Denver Global Political Current Events Group has 37 members. The Roseville Neighborhood Watch Group in Michigan has 49 members. Obviously not all of the members show up at each meeting, and different groups have different activity levels. I was surprised, however, to see how active many groups were. For example, the Young Professionals In International Affairs in Washington, DC has 1014 members and has held 133 meetings so far.

Another possible use for is to form our own local LEAP support groups. There seems to be a lot of potential here, but if you search you will discover that none of the major drug policy reform organizations are really making use of this resource.

What are your experiences with
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