Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Published: Friday, November 14, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Providence Journal Company
Contact: [email protected]
Jack A. Cole, who heads a speakers bureau of police, prosecutors and judges who favor decriminalizing drugs, talks to the Warwick Rotary Club.
Warwick -- After devoting much of his adult life to fighting the war on drugs, retired detective Jack A. Cole says the one thing he knows for sure is that the war has made America's drug problem worse.
In the last three decades, the police have spent half a trillion dollars to arrest and jail mainly nonviolent drug users, he said. Despite that, drugs have never been cheaper, more potent or more available, and are financing a host of criminal and terrorist organizations.
"Not only is the war on drugs a failed policy, it's a destructive policy," he said yesterday, after urging members of the Warwick Rotary Club to support efforts to legalize drugs, then regulate and tax them in the same manner as cigarettes and alcohol.
Cole, a former New Jersey state trooper who worked undercover narcotics investigations for 12 years, heads a speakers bureau of police, prosecutors and judges who favor decriminalizing drugs.
"Eighty-seven million people in the United States above the age of 12 have used illegal drugs. That's why I say this is not a war on drugs, it's a war on people," Cole said.
One Rotarian in the audience, Col. Stephen McCartney, chief of police in Warwick, said later, "I agree that the policy is still not working, no question, but I'm not convinced that legalizing drugs is the answer."
(The war on drugs, in any event, is not as high a priority for the police these days, McCartney added. Increasing attention is focused, he said, on such issues as guarding against terrorism and improving race relations.)
In the early days of the war on drugs, which began under the Nixon administration, seizing a few pounds of heroin or cocaine was a major haul for police, Cole said. Now it's not uncommon for police to seize tons at a time.
Heroin sold on the street today is about 38 percent pure, up from about 1.5 percent when the war on drugs began, Cole said.
"We're being totally inundated with high-grade, hard drugs in this country," he said, and minors can buy them more readily than beer or cigarettes.
The conventional answer: hire more police, make more arrests, impose mandatory sentences, build more prisons. "I was one of the people saying exactly that," Cole said, "but we've been doing it for 33 years and it hasn't solved the problem."
A Massachusetts resident, Cole is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition --
http://www.leap.cc -- a nonprofit agency that arranges speeches by 36 current and former police officers, prosecutors and judges who seek to build public support for decriminalizing drugs.
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