Pubdate: Mon, 10 Dec 2012
Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)
Copyright: 2012 The Virginian-Pilot
Author: Bill Sizemore
Author; Bill Sizemore


NORFOLK - Over a 34-year police career, Neill Franklin was a big-time 
drug warrior.

As an undercover narcotics agent with the Maryland State Police, he 
made hundreds of drug arrests. Later, as a supervisor and commander, 
he was indirectly responsible for thousands more.

He was proud of his work. He thought he was contributing to the 
betterment of society.

Today, he tells anyone who will listen that he was wrong.

Franklin is now executive director of Law Enforcement Against 
Prohibition an organization of current and former law enforcement 
officers that lobbies for the legalization and regulation of drugs. 
He will lead an audience discussion Wednesday night after the 
screening of the documentary film "The House I Live In" at the Naro 
Expanded Cinema.

The message of the film and of LEAP is the same: America's 40-year 
war on drugs has been an utter failure.

It has cost more than $1 trillion and accounted for more than 45 
million arrests, making the United States the world's No. 1 jailer.

It has spawned a worldwide epidemic of gang violence.

Yet for all that, drugs today are cheaper, more available and as 
widely used as ever before.

Franklin's growing doubts about the efficacy of the drug war reached 
the tipping point in 2000 when his good friend and colleague Ed 
Toatley, a Maryland state trooper, was killed by a midlevel cocaine 
dealer while making an undercover buy in Washington, D.C.

The violence associated with drug prohibition is the top concern for 
most ex-drug warriors, Franklin said in a telephone interview.

"Not just the violence in our streets, in our neighborhoods and our 
communities and cities," he said, "but the cartels and major criminal 
enterprises in Central America. It's bad in the United States, but 
it's unbelievable in Mexico and Venezuela and Honduras and those countries."

"The House I Live In" portrays the drug war as a vast, costly, 
destructive machine that feeds largely on America's poor, especially 
minority communities. It was written, produced and directed by Eugene 
Jarecki, whose previous films include "Why We Fight" and "The Trials 
of Henry Kissinger."

Franklin said that as he and his LEAP colleagues visit civic clubs, 
churches and college campuses across the country, he is becoming more 
optimistic that their message is getting through. The most recent 
sign: voter-approved initiatives last month in Colorado and 
Washington state legalizing marijuana.

"The momentum is tremendous," he said. "We now believe that we will 
see significant policy change while most of us are still here."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom