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Peter Christ, founding member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaks at a Rotary Club
Century of Lies / July 14, 2013
DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, seldom do I have a single guest on my show but we’re going to listen to a speech given last week at a Rotary Club by one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – in fact, the man who came up with the idea. This is former Captain Peter Christ.
PETER CHRIST: I’m Peter Christ. I’m one of the co-founders of LEAP which stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We are a 501(c )(3) non-profit organization which was formed back in 2002 to bring a voice to law enforcement on drug policy reform. That’s what I am going to be talking about today.
We are a membership organization. If you agree with what we say here today and you want to do a little bit more than just agree you can sign the form – print your name, your email address and your zip code on the form on the table over there and you will be put on our mailing list.
It doesn’t cost anything. If you want to join you can sign up and pay $25 for your membership and also be placed on our mailing list which lets you know what is going on. We share our mailing list with no one and we very seldom (maybe one email per month) send out to let people know what is going on.
One other thing, if you do sign up today at one of these presentations and become a supporter you’ll leave with one of these little gold pin lapel badges. We think these are important because sometimes this can be a difficult issue to bring up and talk about but if you have one of these little gold badges on I’m sure somebody is going to ask you, “What’s that?”
My attitude is if somebody is going to ask you something you can answer what you want to – that’s your choice. That’s that.
Who am I? I’m a retired police captain. I worked for 20 years for the town of Tonawanda Police Department. That’s a suburb of the city of Buffalo. For any of you who are wondering if I was the police captain what do the other four guys do in the town – it was a little bit bigger than that.
We served a community of roughly 85,000 people. We had roughly a 120 officer police department. I came in as a rookie patrolman in 1969 and I retired as a patrol captain in 1989 and then immediately got involved in the issue I will be talking about today which is drug policy because I saw the failure of this policy every day that I worked. I saw the harm that it was doing to the society that I lived in and my profession.
What that policy is is the policy of prohibition. We are Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I’m going to talking primarily about drug prohibition today but we are not limited to just that. We are against a policy within a free society that prohibits consensual adult behavior.
When you have things that consenting adults want to do together and you prohibit that behavior the people that want to do it don’t stop doing it. They just hide it. It goes on. You also create crime in your society because this consensual adult behavior…I just want to be clear about what I mean about consensual adult behavior.
Go along on me with this. Just go along with me on this. You got me? You can just go along with me on this.
You remember we were talking before on how we’d like to beat somebody up? Remember we were having that conversation? Do you want to be beaten up?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t think so.
PETER CHRIST: Alright, he doesn’t want to be beaten up. Now we are consenting adults and we want to beat somebody up. If we beat him up is that consensual adult behavior? No, that’s an assault and where we belong is in prison.
I got an adult. Why don’t we rent a hall, put a ring in the middle of it, sell tickets to people to come and watch us beat each other up. What do we call it? Professional prize fighting.
Do people get injured every year doing that? Do people die every year doing that?
We regulate and control that because we tried to ban it at the beginning of the 20t h century – we called it a blood sport. We tried to wipe out boxing. You know what happened? The death rate went up because instead of having the boxing match in downtown St. Auburns in a hall with a doctor at ring side now the boxing match was out at some barn in the country and if somebody got hurt everybody split because it was against the law.
So we decided it’s better to regulate and control this behavior to make it as safe as possible for the people to do it.
Drug Policy. We have a drug policy in this country. Nixon came to office in the 1970s and he gave it a title. He called it the War on Drugs. We have some military people here I’m sure. If somebody is going to send you off to war what’s the next thing you want to know? That is what does victory look like? Right?! You want to know what does a win look like? How do we know when the war is over?
We had a war between 1941 and 45 that this country was involved with many other nations. We and the allies won that war. That doesn’t mean that every six months or so we got to fight the Japanese and the Chinese and the Italians. It’s won. It’s over. It’s done.
So I’m going to use that definition of war for the drug war. That means we are going to win this war when we’ve eliminated drugs from our society. Heroin has been removed from the dictionary. Marijuana is gone. We don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Anybody here believe that’s possible? Raise your hand.
I’m going to shock you with this…I see as many raised hands here as any place else I’ve ever asked that question. Of course that’s not possible.
So why do we use terms like drug-free and zero tolerance? If drugs are always going to be part of our society there’s only one question that we need to ask – who’s going to run the marketplace?
Is it going to be gangsters, thugs and terrorists or is it going to be licensed, regulated and controlled business people? Which sounds better to you?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Number 2.
PETER CHRIST: Of course but that would be legalization – that would be legalizing drugs. We can’t do that. That’s condoning isn’t it? If we legalize drugs we’re condoning. We’re saying they’re OK. Isn’t that what we’re saying?
Anybody here smoke cigarettes?
[nobody raises their hand]
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: wow…[applause]
PETER CHRIST: I want to applaud all of you. How many people here used to smoke cigarettes? Do you remember when you used to smoke cigarettes and you were condoned? Remember those days?
Every table in this room would have an ashtray on it. Remember getting on a plane in L.A. and smoking in the smoking section all the way to New York? Condoned – cigarette smoking was condoned.
You ask any cigarette smoker today whether they feel condoned and they’ll tell you they feel barely tolerated by the rest of society and that is a perfectly legal drug in every state in the Union but it is not condoned.
So just because we legalize something doesn’t mean we condone it. It means we understand what we are able to do and what we are not able to do.
The Drug Czar the other day gave a speech to a bunch of reformers. My lovely wife was sitting on the couch as he was doing this and when he said this line I’m going to repeat she stuck her fingers in her ears because she knew what was going to be screaming into …
He said, “We understand that this drug problem is fundamentally and education and a health care problem.”
This is the Drug Czar. Can you tell me what other educational and health care problem in America do we spend 70 billion dollars from the criminal justice system to deal with? Can you name one? I can’t think of any.
If it’s an educational and health care problem the money should be spent on health care and education not on the criminal justice system.
If you are an alcoholic and you live in America …and I don’t mean you’re in recovery – you’re drinking every day – but you don’t drink and drive and you don’t harm other people or other people’s property. What do we do to you?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: nothing…
PETER CHRIST: What do we do for you? I guarantee you don’t have to worry about what’s in that bottle when you buy it. There’s no rat poison mixed in there – you know what’s in there.
We give you a safe place to purchase it – licensed taverns, liquor stores, stuff like that – and treatment on demand. Anybody that wants to stop can go to AA meetings to start off – boom.
Let’s talk about another American citizen – the heroin addict. Like our alcoholic he uses every day but doesn’t use and drive and doesn’t hurt other people’s property. What do we do to them?
We arrest them and we hang a felony conviction on them. Possession of heroin in every state is a felony. There’s one thing that we say at LEAP all the time - you can recover from your addiction but you never recover from your conviction. That goes with you to every job interview you go to for the rest of your life.
What about purity of product? Who knows what you are buying out there on the street. What about a safe place to purchase and use them?
I’m going to give you a little bit of advice- this Friday night if you’re planning on taking the family out for dinner I’d like to say that you not take them to a crack house. A tavern is a safe place for them – a crack house is not.
What about treatment? If you are a heroin addict you’ve got to admit to two things; one, I’m an addict and two, I’m a criminal. It pushes people away from treatment by criminalizing this behavior.
We have to end this policy. We have to move to a regulated and controlled marketplace so we can have control over purity, age limits, distribution.
Now I have had people say to me, “I understand the marijuana thing but you would legalize heroin and methamphetamine?!”
I’m going to quote the retired police chief in Florida, Jerry Cameron, who is now one of our speakers. This is how he answers that question.
“It’s real simple. Whichever drugs you once sold on the street corners by 13-year-old children you keep that drug illegal and that’s who will be selling it.”
I, personally, don’t want 13-year-old children selling drugs on any street corners in America therefor we have to regulate and control all of them and take them out of the hands of gangsters and thugs.
Will drug use go up if we legalize drugs? I walk around this room and I see all these potential crack users – you’re just waiting, aren’t you?
Of course not. Of course not.
Let me give you an example. If you’ve noticed over the last 12 years there, all of the sudden, in America appears to be gay people everywhere. Have you noticed that? It wasn’t like that 10 years ago. 10 years ago there wasn’t any gay people in America at all. Now there every place.
Now the only reason there could be more gay people is if people are changing from straight to gay – that’s the only reason there could be more, right?!
We all know that isn’t happening. The only thing that has changed is the rest of us stopped being jerks about it and now these people are willing to expose themselves and say, “This is who I am.”
There isn’t more gay people in America than there was – they’re just more visible. When we legalize drugs you’re all going to be shocked at how many drug users you all know because everybody in this room knows an illegal drug user – I guarantee it.
You may not know you know an illegal drug user but, trust me – either at the work place, at school, your family – trust me, they’re there. They just don’t say they are because it is illegal. If they have a problem with it we can’t get them any help because they hide and don’t tell us who they are.
We’ve got to change this policy. Is this unusual? No.
Let me tell give you an example of a couple different policies throughout our history in America that we followed for a long time that were never, ever good ideas.
Slavery. Slavery was a stupid idea. I don’t mean slavery was a stupid idea morally – how one human being would treat another human being – but slavery is an economic stupid policy.
How many people here have children? How many people here who have children want your children to live with you forever?
You know why? Human beings are too expensive to own. It’s much more sensible for me to 40 hours of your time and let you figure out where you’re going to live and what you are going to eat than it is to own you.
So it not only is a stupid policy morally it was also economically a stupid policy but we did it for 100 years and then we ended it and what did we replace it with? 100 years of segregation.
We might have a cure for cancer today if we hadn’t had segregation for 100 years. Who knows what geniuses we pushed off to the side and lost the benefit of their knowledge and what they could have brought us. But we did it for 100 years.
We ended it with the Brown vs. the Board of Education and the population of the Whitehouse has shown that we’ve come a long way.
And then I want to thank the group of people, women, for studying real hard and finally by 1920 becoming intelligent enough to vote.
There’s only one of two possibilities – either women were too stupid to vote before 1920 or for 150 years we had a policy in effect that stopped women from voting.
If I had to explain to any of the men which one of those is true…there’s no hope and don’t go home tonight.
I also want to mention something to the women. Every person that voted for you to have the right to vote was a man. You know what that tells you about us men – you’re right – we’re slow. But don’t give up on us we’ll get it eventually.
Stupid policy – 100 years of slavery, 100 years of segregation, 150 years ….we’ve only been doing this stupid policy for 40. We only did alcohol prohibition for 13 years and we finally woke up.
How many people believe that we legalized alcohol in 1933 because a new scientific study came out and told us that we were simply wrong about alcohol and it’s really wonderful stuff and you should give it to your kids? Anybody think that’s the reason that we legalized alcohol? No.
We only legalized alcohol for one reason. We knew the same thing in 1933 that we do in 1920 and that’s what a dangerous substance it is when people abuse it. But you know what we learned? As dangerous as alcohol is – prohibition was worse because it created a huge underground system that we couldn’t touch no matter how many people we arrested somebody else stepped right in to take the job because it was just too damn much money.
You tell any good person that there’s 500 billion dollars lying out there but don’t put your hands on it because it’s illegal…that’s what the UN says the international drug trade it – 500 billion per year.
Let’s say that we knock off 60% of it by legalizing marijuana – that only knocks it down to 200 billion per year. People are still going to go after it.
Marijuana is a stop gap. Good that you passed that law but it’s a stop gap.
The federal government regulates drugs. They have a drug schedule. Schedule I drugs are bad. You cannot use them. You cannot sell them. You cannot manufacture them. You cannot even do research on them. They are banned.
Schedule II drugs …what’s his name… the radio guy with Oxycontin…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Rush Limbaugh.
PETER CHRIST: Right…that’s his drug – a tightly regulated prescription.
Schedule III is regulated prescription drugs. Schedule IV is regulated, over the counter – no need for a prescription. Schedule V is everything else – aspirin, Alka Seltzer, and all that stuff.
If we eliminate Schedule I – if we simply tell the federal government you cannot prohibit any drugs…you can regulate the hell out of them but you cannot prohibit them we will have legalized drugs.
Let me give you an example of that happening in all of our lifetimes. About 12 years ago in this country we had a huge prohibition argument about a pill. I don’t want to offend anybody so I’ll try to define the pill from both sides. It’s either the morning after pill or the baby killing pill depending on where you look at it from.
One side yelled, “We can’t have that pill in America. It should be prohibited.”
The other side yelled people had the right to access this pill.
We decided to make it legal under the prescription drug program so in order to buy it you would have to go to a doctor, get a permission slip (sorry, a prescription) and then you could have the pharmacist sell you the pill.
2 years ago the FDA, after seeing it under that regulation, took it off prescription and they said now it’s a Schedule IV drug and all you have to do is have proof that you’re 17 or over and you could buy it without a prescription. We couldn’t have made that in regulatory change if we had this little prohibition argument 12 years ago.
This is not giving us anything we want. We have the largest prison system on the planet Earth. Roughly one-third of those cells are filled by non-violent drug offenders. We have one of the most efficient prison systems on the planet. You hardly ever hear of anybody escaping. We put you in there – that’s where you stay.
Anybody want to take a guess at how many drug-free prisons we have?
I want you to remember that the next time you drive by your own local high school and look at that sign. You know, the one that says, “Drug-free school.”
We don’t have one drug-free prison – not one – not even the supermaxes – they all have a drug problem on the inside.
So we go talk about drug-free in a free society where there’s a prison full of people who have lost all their liberties and they can’t even keep drugs out of there?! And you think you can keep them out of free society.
The government calls this drug control policy. Let me tell you something. As soon as you wish for pseudo-prohibition don’t use the word control anymore because you don’t control anything that’s out in the underworld. They do it the way they want to do it and that’s the way they do it. We don’t control anything about drugs.
We occasionally nip at the edges and arrest some people.
If Budweiser has a dispute with Miller where do they go? To court. When drug users have a dispute they go to the streets because they don’t have any access to the court system because they are illegal.
We have to end this. The only way that things continue is when good people stay silent.
You have to speak out on this. It’s for you. It’s for your kids. It’s for your country.
I particularly am concerned about it because of my old profession because we’re the ones that are out on the front line of this war dying for nothing. This has to come to an end.
If you want to support us fill out the form at the end, get your local badge. If you want to help us more that would be wonderful.
Are there any questions?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So for those who are watching on cable access is there an email or website where they can go to?
PETER CHRIST: http://leap.cc or if you type in “cops say legalize drugs” or, to make it real easy, google LEAP and we are the first or second thing that leaps up.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ve discussed with other people how ridiculous it is that we’ve spent all this money but you have a number of health professionals who gather in a room and it looks like a group that we would have to persuade or educate to really gain anything because it looks really tough to go against a number of health professionals when you’re saying legalize drugs.
PETER CHRIST: Something happened in this country in 1915 called the Harrison Narcotics Act. In 1916 it was followed by something called the Prescription Drug Program. That fundamentally changed the relationship between doctors and patients.
The reason I say this is this. If you’re all listening to me I’ll just give me my point of view on this. If when you go to leave this room and I’m standing at the door and I tell you you can’t leave here unless I tell you you can. Has that changed our relationship?
Prior to 1916 doctors were medical advisors to their patients. After 1916 they were permission barriers for patients. That’s when they got control of the pharmacy and nobody has control of anything likes to give it up.
The reason why so many of us cops want to give it up is because we don’t have any control over it. We’re just dancing around the edges.
The doctors have a vested interest in keeping it the way it is and I understand the position. The problem is we have to deal with this as a health care issue. That means we are going to have to accept the reality. We do, as I mentioned before, with alcoholics. We don’t bother you if you’re an alcoholic. We make sure you have a safe drug that you are taking and stuff like that. Give you a safe place to buy it in but if you want to destroy your life – destroy your life – it’s your choice.
Let me give you an example about the transition and I know it’s quitting time. I started on the police department in February 1969. I made my first DUI arrest in the summer of 1970 almost one year and a one half after I came onto the department. I bet there isn’t a cop out there today that hasn’t made his first DUI within the first week.
I brought that guy in cuffs to the station and I immediately started taking heat from my senior officers who said things to me like, ”Hey, you drink too don’t you?! What are you messing with that poor slob for?!”
That was the attitude of the police force. Then a little organization formed up in the late 70s and they were very angry. In fact they were so angry they called themselves MADD. They were Mothers Against Drug Driving. If you remember when they first started the first group that they went after was law enforcement and they said, “Do your job.”
The reason I’m giving you all this is this – you legalized alcohol in 1933 and we went on almost a 50 year binder pretending that we didn’t have an alcohol problem in this society.
Any of you people here watch the Mad Men on television? Every time they go to an office somebody’s giving them a drink. That’s all it was in the 50s and 60s, OK?
We changed that drastically now by holding people responsible for their actions – not by banning it. I don’t want us to legalize drugs and then go on a 50 year binder pretending we don’t have a drug problem. We have to legalize drugs and then start dealing with the drug problem. Fundamentally it is, as the Drug Czar said, a health care and education position.
Here’s what LEAP has changed in the dynamic of this discussion since we were formed in 2002. Prior to 2002 if we were going to have a debate about drug policy what you would do is you would get the local prosecutor, the local judge or the local narc to be on one podium to defend the policy and then on the other podium you’d put the local “crazy hippie” who said, “Hey, man, drugs are cool. Everybody have a party!”
It’s not hard to figure out who is going to win that debate.
Let me how that dynamic has changed thanks to LEAP. Let’s say you’re going to put the primary spokesman for drug policy on one podium, the Drug Czar. You know who we’re going to put at the other podium? …wait a minute…
Gil Kerlikowski before he was Drug Czar was Chief of Police of Seattle, Washington and then he became Drug Czar. You know who we’re going to put at the other podium? A guy named Norm Stamper Norm Stamper retired as Police Chief of Seattle, Washington when Gil took the job.
So now it’s which chief of police are you going to listen to not are you going to listen to the crazy hippie or are you going to listen to Drug Czar. That’s the difference.
We are not condoners. We know the problems that drugs cause in our society. We understand it better than you do. We lived it. When the problems were going down we were there. We know but we also know that prohibition is causing more problems in our society than drugs do.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m looking at a country like the Netherlands and as far as I understand it it has legalized drugs. The anecdotal evidence coming out of the Netherlands is whether it is good policy or not.
PETER CHRIST: First off, marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands. It’s just that they don’t arrest anybody for it. They can’t legalize it because of their signage of the International Treaty that prevents any of the signors of that treaty from legalizing any of those drugs.
Huge reduction of the heroin users in that state. Marijuana is a gateway drug but it’s not a gateway to drugs it’s a gateway to the underground.
DEAN BECKER: Sorry, I had to cut it off there but if you would like to see and hear the full discussion please go to http://leap.cc/watch-a-video.
Please, folks, do your part to end this madness. Prohibido istac evilesco!
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.
The Century of Lies.
This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
The James A Baker Institute
Sun - Doug McVay interview of Morgan at Cannabis Collaboration Conference in Portland
Sat - Doug McVay interview of David Rheins at Cannabis Collaboration Conference in Portland
Fri - NBC interview of Aaron Justiss of Buds & Roses + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Thu - KTUL report on cannabis in Oklahoma + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Wed - KTUL report on cannabis in Oklahoma + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Tue - CATO Institute report on drugs & Heroin PSA
Mon - Debby Goldsbury re forthcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, Feb 13&14