given as part of a lay service at Davies Memorial UU Church

The General Assembly is not all dedicated to religion. There are workshops and lectures for social issues that you aren't likely to hear in any other venue.

The lecture I'll be talking about is from LEAP -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is a group of Policemen, Judges and Prosecutors who want to end the war on drugs and focus on treatment and prevention.

I’d like to start with a little history of Drug Prohibition in America:

Prior to 1914 anyone could go to a drugstore and purchase their desired drug of choice. These drugs included Heroin, morphine and cocaine. In fact, heroin was even used in infant cough medicine. Addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

The culture started taking a turn in the lead up to WWI

1914  The NY Times states "Most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct result of the cocaine crazed Negro brain." It was concluded that "Negro cocaine fiends are now a known Southern menace.”

Also in 1914  The Harrison Narcotic Act is enacted, controlling the sale of opium, opium derivatives, and cocaine. This is the first federal law of its kind.

1920  The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a pamphlet urging Americans to grow marijuana as a profitable undertaking. Addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

1930  The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is formed.  Many of its agents, including its first commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, are former prohibition agents who, having successfully prohibited alcohol, turned their attention to other narcotics.

1937  The Marijuana Tax Act is enacted, making it virtually impossible to legally sell marijuana in the US. The bill was passed on the grounds that marijuana caused "murder, insanity and death" especially among the "less civilized races". The AMA was against the bill because it outlawed drugs they had been prescribing for decades. There is now very clear evidence that the act itself was based mostly on racism and wild, entirely unsupported claims. Addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

1956  The Narcotics Control Act is enacted; it provides the death penalty, for the sale of heroin to a person under eighteen.

1969 President Nixon coins the term "war on drugs." He states privately on the infamous “Nixon Tapes” "Every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews. Homosexuality, dope, amd immorality in general are the enemies of strong societies. That's why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they're trying to destroy us. Radical demonstrators are all on drugs, virtually all. Enforce the law, you’ve got to scare them."

1971 The controlled substances act is passed. Addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

The 1980s Congress passes minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines, thus taking judgment away from judges.

The 1990s Law enforcement begins seizure of property under RICO Laws. Addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

The 2000s 1.5 million people in the US are imprisoned. 60% of them for drug related infractions. 40% of those are African-American.

2006 To date, 1,007,860 people have been arrested for drug offenses this year. So far this year, we have spent 32 Billion dollars on the drug war. The estimated addiction rate in the US is now estimated at between 3 and 5%.

The stated goals of current U.S. drug policy -- reducing crime, drug addiction, and juvenile drug use -- have not been achieved, even after nearly four decades of a policy of "war on drugs". This policy, fueled by over a trillion of our tax dollars has had little or no effect on the levels of drug addiction among our fellow citizens, but has instead resulted in a tremendous increase in crime and in the numbers of Americans in our prisons and jails. With 4.6% of the world's population, America today has 22.5% of the worlds prisoners, spawning a cottage industry in “prisoner maintenance”. But, after all that time, after all the destroyed lives and after all the wasted resources, prohibited drugs today are cheaper, stronger, and easier to get than they were thirty-five years ago at the beginning of the so-called "war on drugs".

There have been many unintended consequences in the war on drugs. One of the unintended consequences of the successful interdiction of large amounts of marijuana was that it caused many marijuana dealers to switch to harder drugs that were less detectable and far more profitable, pound for pound. Among those drugs were heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. An even worse consequence was that in a few short years the price of marijuana increased by 2,500 percent, from $160 a pound to $4,000 a pound, causing many users to switch to harder drugs, which were less detectable, more plentiful and were becoming ever cheaper. The war on drugs actually increased drug usage and made it more likely that those using soft drugs would choose harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

With this in mind, current and former members of law enforcement have created a drug-policy reform movement -- Law Enforcers Against Prohibition (LEAP). They believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction. as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition. LEAP believes that a system of regulation and control of production and distribution will be far more effective and ethical that one of prohibition.

They do this in hopes that Law Enforcement can regain the public's respect and trust, which have been greatly diminished by their involvement in imposing drug prohibition. This group consists of police officers, judges, local and federal prosecutors. They are not from the far left, they are people who have experienced the "war on drugs" first hand.

For more information, I have a DVD available or please see their website.

- Race Dowling