Pubdate: Sun, 18 Feb 2007
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Address: P.O. Box 24700, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4700
Fax: (561) 820-4728
Copyright: 2007 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Rachel Simmonsen
Bookmark: (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Bookmark: (Christ, Peter)


STUART -- Peter Christ doesn't condone illicit drugs. In fact, he 
thinks they're so dangerous, they should be regulated and controlled. 
And that's why he opposes the ban on drugs such as marijuana, heroine 
and cocaine.

"It doesn't work," Christ said of the country's war against drugs, a 
decades-old policy on which he said the federal government spends $70 
billion a year.

Speaking Saturday to about 30 people at the Blake Library, the vice 
director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition said the country 
needs to revamp its drug policy, ending prohibition of illicit drugs 
in favor of regulation and control.

Because of prohibition, gangsters, not the government, decide where 
the drugs are sold, of what quality they are and at what price, 
Christ said. He noted that other countries, such as Switzerland, have 
been able to cut down on petty crime and the rate of HIV infection by 
controlling rather than criminalizing certain drugs.

Part of the problem with the U.S. drug policy is misperception, 
Christ said. Eighty-five percent of drug violence is not among people 
who are high; it's among people fighting over the marketplace for 
drugs, he said.

Christ, who retired after 20 years in law enforcement in New York, 
said his group is modeled after Vietnam Veterans Against the War. 
Like veterans who have firsthand knowledge of war, law enforcement 
officers have firsthand knowledge about drugs in society.

"You don't have to agree with us, but don't tell me we don't 
understand the problem," Christ said.

The group, a nonprofit formed in 2002, has about 7,000 members, about 
750 of which are or were law enforcement officers.

Christ's talk was organized by the Treasure Coast chapter of the 
American Civil Liberties Union and the Martin County branch of the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who asked 
him to speak after hearing that he was traveling in the area, said 
Richard Learned, a member of the ACLU and the NAACP.

"We're hoping that today is the beginning of a discussion on this 
topic," said Ethel Rowland, with the ACLU.

Christ likewise encouraged his audience to keep talking beyond 
Saturday's event: "You can't stay silent about this."