Ending The War On Drugs — Conference

(12.5) We can not arrest our way out of this, and god knows we’ve tried. But public health problems are just not amenable to law enforcement solutions; It’s time for a new approach and on Saturday you can hear what some cops, docs, and clergy have to say about it.

Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Protect Families First invite the public to three panel discussions focused on the war on drugs and alternate policies based in science, health, compassion, and human rights. Panelists include faith leaders, community organizers, law enforcement officials, and health professionals with decades of experience and study in this area.

For over forty years the war on drugs has been waged with the criminal justice system its primary weapon. This war has cost the United States over a trillion dollars and millions of lives. Today, 1 in 35 American adults is under control of the criminal justice system, with arrests, convictions, and lengthy sentences impacting Blacks and Latinos disproportionately. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people each year, and tens of thousands of people in Mexico and Central America have been killed, disappeared, or displaced because of drug war violence.

And speaking of how ineffective our law enforcement approach has been . . . anyone know where El Chapo is? Even the DEA admits Guzman currently controls the American market. Not too surprising, what with the DEA getting distracted with all those free prostitutes.

I often speak for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) but this Saturday I will get to hear, and hopefully meet, LEAP executive director Major Neill Franklin for the first time. A 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department — after 23 years with the Maryland State Police he was recruited in 2000 by the Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department to reconstruct and command Baltimore’s Education and Training Section — Franklin started out early in narcotics, making hundreds of arrests.

But two people permanently changed his steadfast belief in fighting the drug war. The first was Kurt Schmoke, who declared while he was the sitting mayor of Baltimore that the drug war was not working. Schmoke explained that fighting a war on drugs was counteproductive and created excessive violence. This was a turning point for Neill, who began to research and evaluate his own experiences in law enforcement. “We worked in predominantly white areas, yet most of our cases and lock ups were minorities. There were very few cases in the outlying areas that involved whites,” he says.

Not long after Mayor Schmoke’s announcement, Neill’s close friend, Corporal Ed Toatley, was killed in Washington, DC while making a drug deal as an undercover agent. “When Ed was assassinated in October 2000, that is when I really made the turn. That’s when I decided to make my views public,” Neill explains. He became executive director of LEAP in 2010.

Says Franklin, “It pains me to know that there is a solution for preventing tragedy and nothing is being done because of ignorance, stubbornness, unsubstantiated fear, and greed.”

Tickets are free but you can go here to register . . . and make a donation.

9am to 12:30pm, Saturday, December 5, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 15 Hayes Street, (directions)

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