Let’s start with a bang. The US drug policy has failed. The Global Commission on Drug Policy has seen it. Our officers have seen it through increased membership to LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. However, the US policy on drugs has not changed in 30 years. Why is that?
The police have had a War on Drugs since Nixon’s “Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. In this war on drugs, we’ve seen the police use every trick in the book to continue using these laws. But the effect of these laws have been devastating for civil rights. The police have become more militarized in their thinking. There is no compromise with a drug dealer, merely a look at stopping supply with nary a look at actually stopping demand:
We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather “enemy combatants.” The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn’t look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?
And what have we gained for the destruction of our freedoms? An perpetual underclass who have limited chances at education or advancement. A black market that is costing the US $76.8 billion dollars in lost revenue. Perverse incentives where police target pot smokers over more serious crimes.
When faced with all of the information showing the problems of our drug policy, why should the police not be allowed to speak out about it? Just like the Occupy Wall Street movement, the police are not allowed to speak. If they make statements that don’t support “The Mission”, then it’s tantamount to career suicide. Bryan Gonzalez, a young border patrol agent found out the hard way:
If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.
Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”
As the article states, police are reluctant to support LEAP openly. Most officers know that the drug policy is ridiculous, just not the extent. However as others note, you can’t be promoted if you’re soft on crime.
The best advocacy for drug legalization should come from those that have worked in the field and seen the problems of our current laws. As seen in Colorado or Sweden, legalizing drugs is a win-win. It allows for more growth in job creation, entrepreneurial innovation, and more tax revenue for the government. What is there not to like in expressing a notion that our drug policies are hindering American process?