BOSTON (WWLP) - With plans to support legislation next year that will legalize marijuana in Massachusetts, a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or “LEAP” is warning state lawmakers that sending non-violent drug offenders to jail creates more problems than it solves.
LEAP believes it makes it harder for them to get a job in the future, it doesn’t address drug use as an underlying health problem and it takes attention away from violent crime.
“We have told our police, it is so important that you get out there and chase around all these non-violent drug offenders and they’re spending most of their staff time and energy doing that,” said LEAP Co-founder Jack Cole, who used to work as an undercover narcotics officer in New Jersey.
According to the FBI, in 1963, police solved 91 percent of murders in the country, today they solves 61 percent. The War on Drugs was declared by the Reagan administration in 1971.
Like prohibition, LEAP says illegal drugs create an underground economy that drives up crime, shootings, and murder.
“So people say we can’t legalize drugs because ‘think about the children’ but children will benefit because right now drug dealers sell to anybody, they don’t care how old you are,” said Susan Tordella-Williams of Ayer.
As with anti-tobacco campaigns, LEAP says anti-drug campaigns should focus on education and regulation – Not incarceration.
“Treat this as a health problem and we can actually help these people,” said Cole.
While they hope to introduce a bill next year to legalize marijuana, ideally, they believe all drugs should be legal.
Colorado and Washington state have legalized marijuana through ballot petitions. Even though it is listed as an illegal substance by the federal government, the U.S. Department of Justice has said they will let the laws go into effect.