Pubdate: Thu, 27 Feb 2014
Source: Juneau Empire (AK)
Contact:  2014 Southeastern Newspaper Corp
Author: Emily Russo Miller
Bookmark: (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)


Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Meeting With Legislators This Week

When it comes to legalizing pot, you'd think you know which side the 
police fall on.

But one law enforcement group is in Juneau this week advocating for 
the legalization of recreational marijuana, an issue Alaskans will 
decide with an August ballot initiative.

"Tax and regulate, that's all we're saying," Lance Buchholtz, a 
59-year-old retired sheriff from Wisconsin, told the Empire on Wednesday.

Buchholtz is scheduled to meet with six state legislators on behalf 
of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international nonprofit 
organization that calls for the end of the War on Drugs. Its members 
are primarily current and former police officers, prosecutors and 
judges who reject a blanket prohibition and propose a tightly 
regulated system to control the drug market.

"(Drug use,) it's a medical issue, it's a mental health issue, it's a 
spiritual issue, it's an issue for the communities and their 
families," Buchholtz said. "It's just not a cop issue, it's not a law 
enforcement issue. We can't arrest our way out of this problem."

LEAP is one of the groups targeting Alaska as residents consider 
making it the third state to legalize and regulate recreational 
marijuana production, sale and use. Colorado and Washington passed 
voter-approved measures legalizing pot in November 2012. The 
Maryland-based group was founded in 2002 by five police officers and 
claims to have about 100,000 supporters worldwide, according to its website.

"LEAP worked in Washington and Colorado, they were active when it was 
on the ballot," Buchholtz said. "Alaska had the ballot initiative 
coming up next, and LEAP said 'OK, now we go to Alaska, that's where 
the action is'."

Alaska's Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced Wednesday that the Alaska 
citizen-initiated measure has been certified to appear on the Aug. 19 
primary election ballot. The Division of Elections reviewed the 
measure to ensure it met constitutional and statutory requirements 
for such initiative petitions.

The Associated Press reported the measure proposes making it legal 
for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and as 
many as six plants, including three that are flowering. Public 
consumption would still be prohibited and offenders could be fined $100.

According to the AP, the initiative would grant regulatory control to 
the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and give the Legislature the 
option to create a marijuana control board. It also would establish 
an excise tax of $50 an ounce or a proportionate part of the sale or 
transfer of marijuana from a cultivation facility to a retail 
marijuana store or manufacturing facility that produces pot products. 
The cultivation facility would pay the tax.

Opponents to the measure have cited concerns about the social cost of 
allowing recreational marijuana use, and law enforcement agencies 
across the nation are worried it would send the wrong message, 
calling marijuana a harmful gateway drug.

An organization representing 57 Northwest Indian tribes from six 
states including Alaska announced its opposition Tuesday to 
legalization efforts.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians released a statement 
saying it was partnering with the Smart Approaches to Marijuana 
project to push a treatment, health-first marijuana policy.

The tribal group said it supports efforts to reduce marijuana use, 
especially among young people.

Buchholtz said he did a "total 180" on how he viewed the role of 
police in enforcing drug laws during his 26 years in law enforcement. 
He was a deputy sheriff for Green Lake County, Wisc., for 16 years 
and sheriff for 10 years before retiring in 2005.

"I was Mr. Gung-ho," he said of the start of his career. "I was 22, I 
was one of the hard chargers, I was going to get everybody and get them all."

The retired sheriff's viewpoint began to change over time when he saw 
all the tax dollars being "wasted" on chasing small-time drug users 
and dealers, which he said clogged up the judicial system.

"It was just a joke," he said. "You know you're not stopping any of 
the drugs from coming in. You'd bust one guy and you knew that 
somebody else would just pick it up, and they'd be right in business 
because there's so much profit. The profit motive is just incredible 
in the drug business."

He said the government should be the one to control the market, 
citing a belief that it would help eradicate street dealers and gangs 
that are currently in control.

While in Juneau, Buchholtz will also be giving talks at the 
Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club and the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, 
according to LEAP's website. He is then traveling to Anchorage to 
give a speech at the university and other local clubs and groups 
through March 8.

* The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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