Posts Tagged ‘ LEAP ’

filed under: Funniness | Marijuana

Lewis Black At PPAC

3PM ON 21/03/2013
BY Beth Comery

Lewis Black (3.24) Some years ago I was sitting on my couch watching a Lewis Black comedy special. At one point, he took to task the Baby Boomers as a cohort so feckless that they had failed to do the one thing expected of them — legalize marijuana. And I knew he was right. I felt shame for my people.

As fate would have it, I was soon to fall in with various marijuana activists (not an oxymoron) who brought me to the attention of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)* and I have been representing and testifying ever since. And I hate public speaking. But as of April 1st, the new marijuana decriminalization legislation goes into effect here in Rhode Island, and just last month a new bill for taxing and regulating marijuana (legalization) was introduced.

So Mr. Black, you have succeeded where countless others have failed. You got me off my big fat couch.

*I am a former Providence Police officer.

The Rant is Due; tickets still available. Very amusing interview with Channing Gray in today’s ProJo. I love this guy. (Black, not Gray.)

$29.50 to $65, 8pm, Sunday, March 24th, The Rant is Due, PPAC, 220 Weybosset Street

filed under: War on Drugs |

AG Kilmartin Asks For Bigger Budget, More Prosecutors

5PM ON 06/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

RIAG Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is asking for an increase of 8% in his budget for the next fiscal year. Governor Chafee wants him to find 7% in cuts.  Providence Journal staff writer Tracy Breton reports on the staffing woes at the A.G.’s office in today’s paper, “Stretched to the limit, prosecutors plead case.” Kilmartin insists he needs to increase his staff by eight, including four additional prosecutors, and provides convincing statistics and analysis to support that claim.

Breton follows Terence M. Coyne, a prosecutor in the A.G.’s Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit, as he goes through a typical day — “He doesn’t always work 12-hour days, but Coyne and the other lawyers in his unit have 80 to 100 cases assigned to them at any one time.” — that is an insane caseload.

Nowhere in this article does anyone suggest taking a huge step back and reevaluating whether our current policy of arresting and charging an endless stream of nonviolent drug offenders might be contributing to this problem, and to what end. (It is noted that since Kilmartin took office, the Drug Court has been increased to four days a week.) Over the past 40 years the United States has spent well over $1 trillion and made 39 million arrests of nonviolent drug users.

Perhaps, instead of more prosecutors, we need fewer crimes.

(Beth Comery is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an international organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies. LEAP membership includes many former/retired judges and prosecutors.)

filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Attention Pols — Support Marijuana Reform And Be A Winner

9AM ON 08/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

autumn Attitudes are changing across the country regarding marijuana reform. A piece at HuffPo —  “Colorado, Washington Pot Legalization Deals Drug War Major Blow” — has a great quote from my LEAP cohort Tom Angell.

“To put this into historical context, there is no historical context,” said Tom Angell, spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “It’s the first time any state has ever voted to legalize marijuana — and two of them did it.”

Tom is also the founder of Marijuana Majority a website where people of note (a real mixed bag of pols, celebs, religious leaders, etc.) have thrown in with the movement. It’s real fun to scroll through.

Mr. Angell helped local reformers immensely with the testimony at the Rhode Island state house that finally  resulted in the new marijuana decriminalization legislation (takes effect next April 1st). When facing the committees, we all cited recent polls to the legislators that we felt indicated there would be no political price to pay for backing marijuana reform. Were we right?

Answer after the jump.

more »

filed under: War on Drugs |

Heroin Bust In The News — The War On Drugs Drags On

2PM ON 03/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

war on drugs Look familiar? Haven’t we been down this road before?

The headline in today’s Providence Journal reads “Record heroin seizure in R.I.” as if this were a big win in our war on drugs, when in fact it means just the opposite. If we were winning this war after 40 years the hauls would be getting smaller and smaller, and much harder to find. But once again Rhode Island law enforcement officials, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, the Mayor, and the DEA have held a news conference to announce the “largest heroin seizure in Rhode Island history.”  But the ProJo article notes right at the top,

It was more than three times, by weight, the size of the largest previous heroin seizure in Rhode Island, in 2004. Investigators then grabbed 13.2 pounds, also in Providence.

And the largest cocaine bust in Rhode Island took place just last year when authorities found 143 pounds of the stuff in a North Kingstown storage unit. By what strange calculus could this possibly be called progress?

The Jim Taricani report on Channel 10 identifies the two men arrested as “high-level drug dealers.” But how high-level can they be if it only took two weeks for police to get from the initial street purchase to the big stash. There may be a lot more where that came from. And these two guys will soon be replaced, although we may have to endure another violent turf war for that to happen.

This in no way diminishes the dangerous nature of this police work and the sincerity of the officers involved. But many members of the law enforcement community have come to believe that the war on drugs is an expensive failure that is tearing apart families and neighborhoods. Let’s try treating drug addiction as the public health problem it is. For more information please go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of which I am a member.

filed under: Film | War on Drugs

“The House I Live In” Coming In November

10AM ON 08/10/2012
BY Beth Comery

Coming to the Cable Car in November “The House I Live In” may be the film that will finally get this topic traction with the general public. Directed and written by Eugene Jarecki, and winner of the Grand Jury documentary prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, this film takes on the failed war on drugs. (Disclosure: I am a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an organization of former law enforcement officers, judges, sheriffs, DEA agents, and others, who believe that drug abuse is bad, but the war on drugs is worse.)

The movie is being widely praised, from Forbes “The Most Important Drug War film You’ll Ever See,” to the New York Times where Manohla Dargis calls it “urgently persuasive” adding,

Mr. Jarecki smoothly folds these images in with dizzying statistics and a cavalcade of talking-head interviews with a range of sympathetic experts, including Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow.” He also checks in with a psychologist, as well as with historians, legal professionals, prisoner advocates and inmates. Among the most important collaborators he taps for explanatory duties is the journalist turned pop-culture god David Simon, the creator of “The Wire.” Receiving what seems to be more screen time than any interviewee, Mr. Simon makes at once a fine, friendly narrative guide; a restrained voice of moral outrage; and, as the movie builds to its sweeping conclusions, a conspicuous stand-in for Mr. Jarecki.

LEAP executive director Neill Franklin and board chair Jack Cole had the opportunity to attend advance screenings of the film, and both believe it to be an extraordinary exposé on the damage done by drug prohibition and urge everyone to see it. (And yes, that is a Providence Police car in the trailer, so apparently we are in this.)

filed under: War on Drugs |

ProJo Editorial Suggests Ending War On Drugs

10PM ON 08/07/2012
BY Beth Comery

steve mcniven for nyt In its discussion of the recent elections in Mexico and why the National Action Party may have been voted out, the Providence Journal editorial board has recognized our role in the Mexican drug violence and suggests a possible alternative to our government’s current drug policy.

Though voting the PRI back into power was not what we would have recommended, we can understand the frustration of Mexicans caught up in horrific cartel violence and a sick economy. America can help. Our apparent bottomless demand for drugs should be sated — and treated — by means other than enriching the drug lords in Mexico. Legalizing or at least decriminalizing drugs in this country would be a serious step toward putting the cartels out of business. The unappetizing alternative would be for Mr. Nieto to reach an understanding with the drug cartels to maintain some sort of peace, though the president-elect has said he won’t cut deals with criminals.

To get a clear idea of what we are up against read Patrick Radden Keefe’s exposé of the Mexican drug cartels in ‘Cocaine Incorporated’ (NYT 6.15.12). The amounts of money involved are so staggering that, in addition to container ships and a fleet of 747’s, the Sinaloa cartel is also transporting drugs in $1-million submarines . . . which are considered disposable . . . just the cost of doing business. And the continued building of border fences seems a little silly in light of the 100+ tunnels that have been discovered in the last thirty years.

At this point, ending the failed war on drugs has to be seriously considered; we may no longer have a choice. For more information go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Illustration by Steve McNiven for ‘Cocaine Incorporated.’ NYT.

filed under: Social Justice | War on Drugs

The New Jim Crow — The War On Drugs

4PM ON 10/05/2012
BY Beth Comery

the new jim crow Law professor Michelle Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a book about the invidious effects of our decades-old war on drugs and our exploding (and disproportionately black) prison population. The paperback has been on The New York Times nonfiction* bestseller list for many weeks. In March they wrote,

“The New Jim Crow” arrives at a receptive moment, when declining crime rates and exploding prison budgets have made conservatives and liberals alike more ready to question the wisdom of keeping nearly 1 in 100 Americans behind bars. But Professor Alexander, who teaches at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, said in an interview that the more provocative claims of her book did not come easily to her. When she first encountered the “New Jim Crow” metaphor on a protest sign in Oakland, Calif., a decade ago, she was a civil rights lawyer with an impeccable résumé — Stanford Law School, a Supreme Court clerkship — and was leery of embracing arguments that might be considered, as she put it, “crazy.”

And the discussion on ending the war on drugs will sound less and less crazy the more we talk about it. (I am a speaker for LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.) If you can’t get behind this as a social justice issue then at least consider what a colossal waste of your tax dollars the prosecution and incarceration of non-violent drug offenders has become. The prison industry has lobbyists in Washington making sure everything stays nice and illegal. Make sure your representatives know that a more enlightened approach to drug abuse is needed. (Watch Michelle Alexander’s recent interview on The Colbert Report.)

Perfect Mother’s Day gift!

*The integrity of this nonfiction list is somewhat compromised by the inclusion at number one of Heaven is for Real: A Boy’s Encounter with Jesus and the Angels.

filed under: War on Drugs |

Welcome To ‘Google Plus’ Hangout — Where Fools Discuss Snacking

10AM ON 31/01/2012
BY Beth Comery

LEAP . . . while Rome burns. I am shocked, shocked to discover that the recent President’s video question contest was merely a cynical ploy by Google and YouTube to increase traffic to their sites. Apparently Google pulled the top vote-getting question (posted below) regarding marijuana legalization. Here is a portion of a LEAP statement posted last night,

Today YouTube ignored a question advocating marijuana legalization from a retired LAPD deputy chief of police that won twice as many votes as any other video question in the White House’s “Your Interview with the President” competition on the Google-owned site. They did, however, find the time to get the president on record about late night snacking, singing and dancing, celebrating wedding anniversaries and playing tennis.

The reaction from retired LAPD Chief Stephen Downing, the LEAP board member who posted the question, was reported at Reuters,

“It’s worse than silly that YouTube and Google would waste the time of the president and of the American people discussing things like midnight snacks and playing tennis when there is a much more pressing question on the minds of the people who took the time to participate in voting on submissions. A majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana to de-fund cartels and gangs, lower incarceration and arrest rates and save scarce public resources, all while generating new much-needed tax revenue. The time to discuss this issue is now. We’re tired of this serious public policy crisis being pushed aside or laughed off.”

Anybody on Google Plus should be leaving today, right now. Why would anyone want to be a part of something this lame? Weddings? Tennis? It’s embarrassing.

filed under: Criminal Justice | Social Justice

Cop’s Marijuana Legalization Question Top Vote-Getter In White House Video Contest

8PM ON 29/01/2012
BY Beth Comery

A question advocating marijuana legalization from a retired LAPD deputy chief of police won twice as many votes as any other video question in the White House’s “Your Interview with the President” competition on YouTube this weekend. President Obama is slated to answer some of the top-voted questions on Monday. The marijuana question was submitted by Stephen Downing, a board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). LEAP, of which I am a member, comprises current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out on the failures of our existing drug policies. Those policies have failed, and continue to fail, to effectively address the problems of drug abuse, especially the problems of juvenile drug use, the problems of addiction, and the problems of crime caused by the existence of a criminal black market in drugs.

For more on the Gallup poll cited by Chief Downing, go here — Record-high 50% of Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Use. (Graph after the jump.)

We will report on the President’s response.

more »

filed under: War on Drugs |

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Recruiting American Children

9PM ON 26/10/2011
BY Beth Comery

NBC Nightly News A segment tonight on the NBC Nightly News series “Mexico: the War Next Door” reports on a recent incident along our border with Mexico. A pickup truck packed with a half ton of marijuana crashed following a high-speed chase by Alamo police; the driver turned out to be a 12-year-old boy. The official response so far is to send Border Patrol agents into local schools with the old tried-and-true “Just Say No” message that always never works.

Are we just going to keep building more and more prisons (smaller cells for the children I suppose) or could we consider a more enlightened approach and eliminate the market? For more info on ending our failed war on drugs go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). And check out a recent NPR interview with British journalist Ioan Grillo author of “El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Drug Insurgency.”

filed under: Good Ideas |

Keep Ending Prohibition

11AM ON 05/12/2010
BY Beth Comery

sloppy joes bar/chicago Look how happy these people are. They are celebrating the ratification of the 21st amendment ending Prohibition. On December 5, 1933 the Noble Experiment was deemed a complete failure when it turned out that normally law-abiding citizens would gladly engage in criminal behavior just to get a dry martini. Lessons learned? Zero. Perhaps we just have to wait for a certain obdurate, high-voting demographic to get out of the way (see picture. . . .okay okay, I guess all these people are dead now, but their younger siblings might still be voting). Maybe when they leave for that great watering hole in the sky we can bring some sanity to the also failed ‘War on Drugs’. For more information read Jeffrey A. Miron’s book, Drug War Crimes: the Consequences of Prohibition, go here for synopsis, or check out the testimonials at LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (The writer is the Rhode Island LEAP representative.) The Wall Street Journal agrees. Many links at

filed under: Criminal Justice | Good Ideas

Protect Our Youth

3PM ON 08/12/2008
BY Beth Comery

stamp out prohibition Well, I’ve been riding this hobbyhorse for a while now and it turns out I have an ally over at the Providence Journal — the much smarter and more articulate columnist Froma Harrop.  In yesterday’s paper, she blasted the foolish and wasteful ‘War on Drugs’ and found quite a bit of support in a recent trip to Washington, where comparisons to the failed Prohibition experiment were made.

Former law-enforcement officers gathered here to draw the parallels. Their group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), has called for nothing less than the legalization of drugs.

And before you say, “We can’t do that,” hear the officers out. They have an answer for every objection.

These are enumerated in the article, with LEAP members concluding that they…

…want to legalize drugs because they’re tired of being shot at in a war they can’t win. They’re tired of making new business for dealers every time they arrest a competitor. They are tired of busting people in the streets of America’s cities over an ounce of cocaine, while the Andean region produces over 1,000 tons of it a year. They’re tired of enriching terrorists.

Also present was one, Eric Sterling, “head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, which joined the call for legalization. As counsel to the House Judiciary Committee in the 1980s, Sterling helped write the anti-drug laws he now opposes.”  Okay?  The guy who wrote the laws wants them repealed.



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