Pubdate: Thu, 07 Nov 2013
Source: Iowa State Daily (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2013 Iowa State Daily
Author: David Gerhold


Two guest speakers talked about the ongoing war on drugs and its 
effects on society on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Memorial Union. First 
to speak was Martin Acerbo, professor of psychology. He tried to put 
the debate into a scientific context. "If we talk about legalizing 
drugs, we need to carefully consider what questions we need to ask," 
Acerbo said. Smoking marijuana can have medical effects, but it also 
has a considerate effect on the cognitive abilities. "It affects your 
perception on time and your ability to react, so it puts everyone 
around in danger, once you decide to drive," Acerbo said. Acerbo said 
that discussions concerning the matter should be dictated by facts 
rather than emotions. "We don't know yet how certain substances 
affect your body or interact with each other, especially when you 
smoke a joint," Acerbo said. "Police officers often arrest people 
based on the level of THC in your blood, even though that doesn't 
indicate your level of intoxication at all."

The main speaker of the evening was Brian Leininger, criminal defense 
lawyer in Kansas City, Kan. He spoke on behalf of Law Enforcement 
Against Prohibition, also known as LEAP, an organization mostly 
consisting of police officers and former prosecutors, whose main goal 
is to legalize drugs.

Leininger said that he grew up in Iowa and didn't experience much 
action. It wasn't until he moved to Kansas City that he experienced 
the ineffective war on drugs first hand. "The war on drugs has been 
going on for over 40 years, millions of dollars have been spent and 
yet the situation is worse than ever," Leininger said. "It is easier 
to get drugs than ever before. And if the government can't even keep 
drugs out of prisons, how on earth can they keep it out of our society?"

Leininger said that not only has the war on drugs been a total 
failure, it is also harmful and causes lots of problems.

"We have created a black market, where there are only a few people 
selling drugs, so the prices skyrocket," Leininger said. "Dealers 
start huge territorial fights with a lot of civil casualties and the 
police can't do anything about it."

Leininger said the black market, in his opinion, isn't the only 
problem. "Drug addicts, especially when we talk about harder drugs, 
will do anything to get their fix," Leininger said. "And if they 
can't get it legally, they start to break into houses, rob stores, 
threaten people."

Legalizing drugs is not the perfect solution that solves every 
problem, Leininger said, but it eliminated a lot of them without 
causing additional problems. "We also need to consider that innocent 
people are killed in drug raids," Leininger said. "Think about it: 
they kick in your door, you hear that, get scared, because you think 
someone is trying to break into your house. You get your gun, the 
cops see you with the gun and shoot you. It happens all the time." 
Thousands of people have been convicted for possession of drugs, 
Leininger said.

"Their lives are destroyed, even though marijuana is far less harmful 
than alcohol. I have never heard of any domestic abuse case where the 
person was under the influence of marijuana," Leininger said. 
Leininger said he believes that legalizing drugs would allow 
authorities to spend the money where it really matters. "Fighting 
real crime, fight crimes with victims," Leininger said. "You do good 
and don't ruin peoples' lives simply because they decide to alter 
their consciousness." Jacob Barbour, junior in pre-graphic design, 
said the speaker made a good argument.

"I really enjoyed the lecture and it was really informative. I felt 
like things are moving in a positive direction," Barbour said. "I'm 
not 100 percent on legalizing all drugs, but the speaker makes a 
really good argument for it."

Sophie Deam, sophomore in political science, said she was 
disappointed in the lecture itself.

"There wasn't really any new information," Deam said. "For me 
personally, I didn't really gain anything from them, even though I 
agree on the points that were made." Deam said that she was 
disappointed that Leininger didn't touch on the issues Acerbo talked about.

"Especially as far as looking at driving under drug influence or 
potential negative side effects go, I wish those topics had been 
discussed more," Deam said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom