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December 6, 2006 - Rutland Herald (VT)

OpEd: Sand Right To Challenge War On Drugs

By Peter Christ, retired police captain from Tonawanda, N.Y., and co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

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I hope the good people of Vermont realize Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand is not alone in his negative views on our War on Drugs. His stand, so fairly represented in Susan Smallheer's excellent Herald article, "State's Attorney Critical Of Drug Laws" (Thursday, Nov. 30) deserves an airing. After all, our freedom of expression, if not exercised, becomes silent acquiescence to laws and policies we are better without.

As a retired police captain, with 20 years service in law enforcement, I know Mr. Sand speaks a truth few in government dare acknowledge. That truth is: "The drug war is counterproductive and accomplishes none of its goals. Instead it leads to greater threats and harms to our citizens and provides a lucrative market for criminals and their gangs and syndicates."

The drug war is a mirror for our early 20th century experiment in Prohibition. The prohibiting of adults from drinking alcohol didn't stop adults from drinking and led to an increase in drinking by our youth. Its unintended consequences were an increase in corruption of police and politicians, gangs and gang violence in the streets and an atmosphere of disrespect for our system of laws.

Robert Sand's stance against the new Prohibition may seem a surprising one for a prosecutor. At one time it would have been, but not today. I am one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (, an organization of criminal justice professionals dedicated to ending this war. Comprising law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officers and regular citizens, LEAP in only four years has grown rapidly with some 6,500 members. And we all agree with State's Attorney Sands.

Like Sands, LEAP members know that these banned drugs are very dangerous to individuals and to society and must be regulated and controlled. We discourage the use of drugs and believe they can and do cause harm to our families, friends and communities.

We also know that providing medical intervention for drug problems is more efficient and less expensive than using the criminal justice system. Law enforcement's priorities should be to lessen violence and threats to our citizens and their property.

My brothers and sisters in law enforcement risk their lives for a policy which serves only to throw people, civilians and police alike, in harm's way. Far too many citizens have lost friends and family and find themselves wedged between the police and the criminals.

Drugs today are cheaper, more potent and more available than at any time in our history. Surely, if there were any successes in the drug war to be acknowledged, the new Prohibition supporters would be parading them proudly. The successes they do trumpet, the occasional drugs seizure or a temporary, small percentage, drop in "estimates" of use, are false indicators and are more like the distractions in a con artist's shell game.

Should we continue to follow a path that has made the United States the world's leader in incarceration? No. Should we begin to listen to professionals like Mr. Sands and the speakers LEAP offers for groups and communities? Yes.

The conversation has, up until recently, been dominated by the Prohibitionists. But now we have forward thinking professionals and citizens engaged in providing an alternative voice. As one who spent 20 years upholding the law, I proudly join with Robert Sand in calling for an end to the madness of this, America's longest war.

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