Peter Christ believes that Prohibition did not end in 1933 when the 21st Amendment went into effect, again legalizing alcohol.
Christ said the nation's war on drugs amounts to prohibition, including gun-toting criminals and an underworld economy similar to the one that thrived during the 12 years alcohol was banned in the United States.
"We are feeding mobsters money so they can go out and buy guns," Christ said during a lecture Wednesday at the Kiwanis Club of Reading luncheon in The Riveredge, Greenfields. "It is a bad policy for a sane society."
Although he has a pony tail and wears an earring, Christ, 58, does not fit the stereotype of a drug-legalization advocate.
He's a retired police captain who spent 20 years in the patrol division of the department in Tonowanda, N.Y., a Buffalo suburb.
Christ retired from the 110-member force in 1989 and has helped start a Boston-based nonprofit group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
The group of former and retired members of law enforcement supports regulating all drugs rather than using the criminal justice system to enforce a ban on drugs.
Christ said he knew before putting on a badge that waging war on drugs would not work.
"We don't go to wars that last an eternity," Christ said.
But Christ said his personal beliefs did not interfere with his job.
"They (the department) didn't ask me to enforce only the laws I agreed with," he said. "They asked me to enforce all of them."
Enforcing a policy of drug prohibition has proved impossible, Christ said.
He cited the start of the government-run lotteries as an example of how legalizing betting drove the mob out of the numbers rackets.
Something similar would happen if the government legalized all drugs and tightly regulated drug use, Christ said.
"Drug legalization is not an approach to our drug problem," Christ said. "It's about our crime problem. It's about our violence problem."
Christ said there's been no change or even a debate on drug policy because the government is reluctant to admit the war on drugs has failed.
Christ's pitch for legalizing drugs did not sway some of the 15 people who attended the event.
Modesto D. Fiume, executive director of Opportunity House in Reading, which offers housing and other programs for the homeless and others battling drug addiction, said drug laws set limits for behavior.
"He made some valid points," Fiume said of Christ. "But I'm not sure I'm going to be signing up for his organization anytime soon."
But C. Rose Palermo, Kiwanis Club president, agreed with Christ that drug laws are not the way to reduce crime.
"Society has to crack down on this problem," she said.
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