Pubdate: Thu, 14 Nov 2013
Source: Missourian (MO)
Copyright: Washington Missourian 2013
Author: James Gordon


COLUMBIA - About 70 people showed up to Stewart Hall at MU on 
Thursday to hear two prominent drug law reform advocates recount 
reasons to legalize drugs, such as marijuana, and how to run a 
successful campaign in favor of the issue.

Maj. Neill Franklin is a 33-year veteran of the Maryland State Police 
and the Baltimore Police Department. In the 1980s, he worked as an 
undercover narcotics officer in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., 
where most of the arrests he made were for non-violent drug crimes, 
usually related to marijuana, he said.

Franklin's views on drug enforcement took a 180-degree turn when one 
of his closest friends, a federal drug agent, was murdered while 
working an undercover drug deal. He now cites the overwhelming 
violence related to drug commerce as the No. 1 reason to legalize all 

Franklin compared current drug laws to the failed alcohol prohibition 
policies of the early 20th century. Franklin says history is 
repeating itself. Back then, American cities were plagued by gun 
trafficking, drive-by shootings and the recruiting of children as 
bootleggers, he said.

"The War on Drugs hasn't failed; it was dead on arrival," he said.

Franklin is now executive director of Law Enforcement Against 
Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of current and retired law 
enforcement officers working to shift drug policy toward regulation 
and replacement instead of prohibition.

Alison Holcomb, an attorney, spoke about the two-pronged campaign - 
public education and political action - that she helped run in 
support of Washington state's recent marijuana legalization initiative.

Through multiple public surveys, Holcomb and her colleagues 
discovered that the most effective messages to convince voters 
focused on how current drug enforcement policies were failing. 
Arguments about personal freedom did not fare as well.

In November 2012, Washington voters passed I-502, which legalized 
marijuana possession and retail sales of marijuana to adults. Holcomb 
presented results from exit polls showing the two main reasons voters 
supported the measure. The first was to free up police and jail 
space; the second was to capture tax revenue.

A recent Gallup Poll found that, for the first time ever, 58 percent 
of voting-age Americans support legalizing marijuana and taxing and 
regulating it like alcohol.

One member of the audience, Robert Theis, said he is pleased that 
Columbia is considering an ordinance to lower penalties for 
cultivating up to six marijuana plants.

Theis, who is a Marine Corps veteran, said he has had a couple of 
brushes with the law over possession but that he needs to smoke 
marijuana to treat his bipolar disorder, manic depression and "mood 
swings that go like a roller coaster."

"If I could be able to get the medication that I need, without fear 
of legal retribution, I have no idea what that would feel like. I 
couldn't describe it," Theis said.

The event was sponsored by the MU chapters of the National 
Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for 
Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom