Pubdate: Sun, 18 Feb 2007 Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL) Contact: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/ 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: http://www.mapinc.org/find?233 (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?239 (Christ, Peter) ALLOW DRUGS BUT CONTROL AND ENFORCE, ACTIVIST SAYS 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."