On Friday, May 13, troops from the front line of America's longest war—the War on Drugs—will join together as tens of thousands of peace officers gather in Washington D.C. to celebrate Peace Officers Memorial Day. One group—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)—will be lighting candles for colleagues lost fighting drug prohibition. Said organizer Tom Angell: "If we ended this war on drugs, a lot of the cops we are memorializing would be alive." LEAP members—attorneys, judges, federal agents, correctional and peace officers—are on the front lines, and they are calling for a truce. LEAP favors the immediate legalization and formal regulation of all drugs. Angell told The Fix: "People think it is only the Cheech and Chong fringe, only hippies and stoners, who would ever advocate legalizing drugs. But these are the people who have risked their lives."
"When one of my best friends was killed doing an undercover drug purchase, it opened my eyes to the fact that not only are these drug laws ineffective, but they lead to brave and dedicated law enforcers losing their lives," said Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department, who now serves as LEAP's executive director. "Ed Toatley was one of the best narcotics agents the state of Maryland ever had, but this failed drug war wasn't worth him losing his life over."
Decriminalizing drugs also decriminalizes addicts. And with the end of the Drug War comes the end of the drug gang and associated violence. When prohibition ended, people no longer got shot over a case of gin. LEAP hopes to get to the source of the problem: untreated addiction. "We don't think criminalizing drug addicts works,” Angell added. “It stigmatizes addicts, keeps them from coming forward or seeking help." LEAP’s idea is to take the money spent on prosecuting and incarcerating addicts and "invest those resources into helping people."
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