Wednesday, January 13, 2010

LEAP Testifies for Legalization in Washington

This afternoon, retired U.S. Customs agent and current LEAP speaker Arnold "Jim" Byron testified at a hearing in the Washington State House of Representatives about marijuana legalization and decriminalization. Here's a video clip:

And here's Arnold's full written testimony that was submitted to the committee:

Testimony in Favor of House Bill 1177 and House Bill 2401

House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

January 13, 2010, 1:30pm

Submitted By:
Arnold James Byron
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


Thank you for the opportunity to appear on behalf of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and to speak in favor of House Bill 1177 and House Bill 2401.

I am a speaker for LEAP, an organization made up of roughly 3,000 men and women who were or are currently in the business of law enforcement and 13,000 civilian members. We are cops, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, prison guards and others from nearly every level of law enforcement. I worked as a United States Customs Inspector for over thirty years, and much of my time was spent searching vehicles, cargo and people for illegal contraband and making arrests. My last post of duty was at Lynden, Washington in Whatcom County.

Like other law enforcement organizations, LEAP does not endorse or condone marijuana use. Whether to endorse or condone marijuana is not the issue here because making marijuana legal for adults does not equal condoning it. No one would argue that by not arresting cigarette smokers, the government condones cigarette smoking.

Decriminalizing marijuana by passing House Bill 1177 is a step in the right direction. The less time that we as law enforcement spend arresting and prosecuting marijuana users, the more time we can spend keeping our streets safe from violent crime. In my case, the more time I spent checking for marijuana being smuggled in to Washington from Canada to meet demand, the more likely it was that a bomb would evade detection at the border. If Washington could meet its own demand for marijuana, inspectors like me could spend more time keeping our borders safe.

But the downside to decriminalization would be that the marijuana would have to be purchased from a person we designate as a criminal, so we still would not have control of where the marijuana is grown, where it is packaged, and who is selling it. And remember, the money from marijuana sales would still go to the criminal element, not to education or treatment.

Marijuana can be a harmful substance, but it is unrealistic to think that we can have a totally alcohol-free, tobacco-free, or drug-free America. Instead, substances like marijuana are sold into our society by criminals whose only mission is to maximize their profits. To maximize profits these organizations must increase the availability of these harmful substances year after year. The only way to put these violent cartels out of business is to make marijuana legal and remove the enormous profit incentive by passing House Bill 2401. This bill will give the people control over all of the aspects of marijuana in our community. The marijuana could be grown locally under prescribed conditions. To my mind, this is a far better endeavor than to continue the negative approach of penalizing the user.

Addressing this issue negatively by putting marijuana users in jail does nothing but create an incentive to sell more marijuana to anyone who will pay for it. Let’s address this issue positively by controlling marijuana, regulating it, and keeping it out of the hands of children.

Thank you again for this opportunity to give testimony.

Arnold J (Jim) Byron
Burlington, WA

Way to go, Arnold!

This is just one example of how LEAP is engaging directly with the policymaking process and is working to change laws, not just minds.


  1. What a sweet old gentleman.
    Especially appreciate his comment on Decriminalization versus Legalization.

  2. way to go Arnold !!
    we need to keep at this and not give up. it should be us, the people, that control drugs. not the criminals.

  3. Good job Arnold. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the great members of LEAP and other organizations who are constantly donating their time, energy, and money in order to help us move in a positive direction regarding drug policy. Keep up the great work guys!

  4. Why the hell is it called Marijauna, its CANNABIS! BUDDAHA!

  5. @Anonymous, 11:10am:

    I don't think it really matters WHAT it's called as long as we've developed a sensible drug policy for it and all other drugs.

    By the way, I'd love to see alcohol advertising trimmed down from what it is to something like tobacco advertising. I think this drug policy reform needs to happen to ALL drugs (be they legal or not).

  6. I think this drug policy reform needs to happen to ALL drugs (be they legal or not).

    Yeah good point Bear. I think that with cannabis, we have a chance to treat a drug properly for once -- no counterproductive and deadly prohibition, and no massive coordinated advertising campaigns aiming to get young people to use drugs.

    There's a middle ground that lets adults be adults without indoctrinating children -- perhaps if we find that middle ground with cannabis, we can help move both legal and illicit substances closer to that happy medium.

  7. Great write-up Arnold. "To maximize profits these organizations must increase the availability of these harmful substances year after year." Not only that, but they desire to corner the market and since they are not subject to anti-competitive regulations, they just threaten, kill, and torture instead.

    The point about focusing our limited resources on bombs and such is very accurate. For sure people smuggling deadly devices like bombs are going to not have a single bit of drugs in their cars; I am sure they realize if they had any drugs in the vehicle the whole thing would be pulled over and every inch searched, thus finding their weapons.

    I third Rhayader's second of Bear's comment. Actually this was discussed in one of the sessions of the most recent Reform conference.

  8. Speaking of alcohol, it seems Britain is instituting some new rules to try to cut down on alcohol problems.

    One example is that you can no longer directly pour alcohol into a patron's mouth.

    Kind of like in this photo: Cleanup On Aisle Vodka

    (That's not a strangely shaped cigar the man on the right is holding.)


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