• Congressman Garrett (VA-R)

  • Gov. Chris Christy (NJ-R)

  • Colorado 2012

  • California Field Work, Prop 19

Salt Lake City Tribune editorial for May 13

Lawman’s blues

Few dare tell the truth about drugs

“You ask any DEA man, he’ll say, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’” — Glenn Frey, “Smuggler’s Blues”

Imagine a world where doctors were the only people who were not allowed to offer their opinions on medicine. Or where what farmers thought about agriculture was left unsaid for fear of public disapproval.

That, more or less, is the situation for law enforcement officers when it comes to any real conversation about how the United States deals with the problems associated with drug abuse. The ones who know from personal, and sometimes heart-breaking, experience just how futile the whole sad enterprise is are the ones who dare not speak out for fear of being seen as soft on crime.

There are, luckily, exceptions. One of them rode through Salt Lake City the other day, on his bicycle and on a lonely mission to show the American people just how wrong we are to continue to insist on taking a law enforcement hammer to a public health nail.

Howard Wooldridge is a retired Michigan police officer and a co-founder of the national organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc). As he explained to The Salt Lake Tribune the other day — and to many others along his ride from Oregon to Georgia — the problems we associate with drug use are not caused by users.

They are caused by the laws, law enforcement officers, judges and, mostly, craven politicians who dare not see or tell the truth about how the ongoing prohibition of drugs is nearly as destructive and just as futile as was the prohibition of alcohol early in the last century.

LEAP favors the legalization, regulation and taxation of now-illegal drugs, along the same model as alcohol and tobacco. That may be too drastic for our culture to embrace all in one go. But even moving toward a decriminalization approach, which stresses education and treatment over arrest and incarceration, would be a huge improvement.

Alcohol and tobacco, of course, create a long list of serious social and health problems. But heavily armed drug lords and the destruction of civil society in parts of Mexico, clogged courts and packed prisons in the United States and street violence of the kind that claimed the life of an Ogden police officer only a few months ago are not among them..

If we took the undeniably huge problem of drug abuse away from the police and gave it to the doctors, where it by all logic and humanity belongs, we could save billions in law enforcement costs, spend millions on treatment, and take a huge step toward real national sobriety.

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