Cops Against the Drug War

A new organization fights for drug legalization

| September 22, 2003

When Jack Cole began working as an undercover narcotics officer for the New Jersey State Police in the early 1970's, his supervisors pushed him to generate arrests in order to stimulate 'massive new funding in law enforcement.' Although drugs were a relatively small problem at the time, Officer Cole and his colleagues routinely lied to exaggerate the situation, reports Nina Shapiro of Seattle Weekly. Drug users were labeled as dealers; officers tampered with evidence, adding 'lactose, quinine, baby powder, almost anything' to turn ounces into pounds of cocaine. Eventually the problem became 'bad enough on its own,' and the cops no longer needed to exaggerate.

Fourteen years later, Cole realized that his work was destroying the lives of the people he arrested, while doing little to reduce the escalating violent crimes related to drug dealing. 'Eighty-five percent of the crime associated with drugs is not associated with the people using drugs,' says former New York State Police officer Peter Christ. Instead, it is a result of the marketplace and its politics. Nonetheless, law enforcement has implemented stricter sentencing on drug users -- a strategy that many in the legal system feel is a 'lost cause.'

Last year Cole became the executive director and spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a national organization Peter Christ founded to lobby for drug legalization. Modeled after Vietnam Vets Against the War. LEAP and its 500 members nationwide include police, parole, and probation officers, federal agents, prosecutors and judges. The organization argues that the only way for illegal drugs to truly become 'controlled substances' is to subject them to federal regulations similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco. Such regulations would allow the government to license and monitor businesses while setting standards and practices that would prevent most overdoses, while removing the huge profits and violence associated with their illicit trade.
-- Erin Ferdinand

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