MASSACHUSETTS: Jack Cole, who spent 26 years with the New Jersey State Police and the majority of his 14 years in their Narcotics Bureau undercover, co-founded the Medford-based organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) with one goal in mind: To end the war on drugs by completely legalizing all taboo narcotics.
It’s almost uncomfortable to consider that such a long-tenured lawman wants the likes of heroine, cocaine, LSD, and opiates to have legitimate regulations in our mixed market economy. But in a true, blue liberal state like Massachusetts where medicinal marijuana is permissible and the recreational variety may soon be so as well, the once bold front lines of the war on drugs are quickly becoming much blurrier.
To be clear, LEAP doesn’t advocate for drug usage. Just the opposite, in fact. Their stance is simply, that by legalizing all narcotics the costly war on drugs will come to an end, the government will cease to inadvertently create cartels and dealers, less people will become reliant on perpetually stronger drugs, and widespread abuse will swiftly slow.
“Our arguments are so logical,” Cole told BostInno over the phone. “People at first are amazed because we’re former police but because of that, they listen to us.”
LEAP has travelled the world spreading its message to reduce abuse by legalization, having already delivered somewhere in the neighborhood of 11-12,000 international lectures, 1,450 of which Cole delivered himself. “47 percent of our listeners sign up to Support LEAP,” continued Cole. “We have over 100,000 police, judges, prosecutors, prison officials, drug czars and other supporters. And we’re growing very, very quickly.”
On the surface it might seem the war on drugs is a noble cause, perhaps even the noblest there is, but it’s conception is deeply rooted in greed and personal agenda, all undertaken at the expense of people like you and me.
Prohibition laws were enacted in 1914 and again in the 1930s halting the distribution of opiates and marijuana, but the war on drugs didn’t gain steam until the presidential election of 1968 during which Richard Nixon made it a foundation of his campaign to allot more resources to fighting all things drugs. Cole remembers in 1964, the New Jersey State Police was comprised of 17,000 troopers and a 7-person narcotics team. By 1970, that same 7-person unit was transformed and the narcotics bureau came to boast 76% of the entire force.
With this new emphasis on drugs along with officers routinely working the street beats in nearby New York City and Philadelphia, Cole and 24 others went undercover in the quiet New Jersey suburbs to reel in some “major dealers.”
But big-time drug pushers are difficult to come by in the ‘burbs. Luckily for the authorities, and to the chagrin of Cole, “There was only one law, and no differentiation by what kind of amount of drugs sold. People didn’t even have to sell drugs because the law said it was illegal to ‘distribute’ a controlled substance,” an umbrella term under which the likes of simply passing a marijuana cigarette was an offense.
“At 5 a.m. we’d kick their doors down, drag people out of their beds, alert reporters, make them do a perp walk, destroy their credibility and respectability” all so the proper authorities could use their success to generate more money for cops, more technical equipment, more cars, radios, and guns to continue fighting the vicious cycle they helped create.
“These people, high school and college-age, went to prison for 7 years. In my memory not a single person escaped that fate. They had to serve at least 1/3 of their maximum sentence. They had no education, couldn’t find work. So what’d they do? They went back to the drug culture. Only this time, they became honest-to-God drug dealers.”
Within eight years, Cole was working billion-dollar international cocaine and heroine rings, the likes of which the world had never seen.
It doesn’t matter the time period though, notes Cole, because “For every new drug dealer, you have a whole bunch of drug users. It’s a self-perpetuating, constantly-expanding policy disaster.”
Putting hundreds behind bars with the unlikeliest of chances of a complete turnaround has understandably weighed heavy on Cole’s conscience, part of the reason he co-founded LEAP with five other former police officers. The monetary cost by our government alone is enough to make anyone cringe; $1.5 trillion spent fighting the war on drugs, $80 billion at least per year, 46 million arrests of nonviolent drug offenders in 43 years, and the drugs are more readily accessible and more potent than ever.
The most striking statistic, though, is that 1.3% percent of the population is addicted to drugs, the exact same percentage as when the war started.
Cole foresees that “we will have re-legalized all drugs in my lifetime,” and certainly marijuana by as early as the 2016 election as long as “young people come out to vote.”
But in the meantime, his mantra is clear. There is absolutely “No way to modify these laws to make them a little bit better by changing this or that. The only way we can end this disaster is by legalized regulation of all drugs. The more dangerous the drug is, the more reason to legalize it. Can’t regulate something that’s illegal.”