Pubdate: Fri, 16 Oct 2015
Source: Hutchinson News, The (KS)
Copyright: 2015 The Hutchinson News
Author: Adam Stewart
Bookmark: (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)


Attorney Brian Leininger disagrees with the assessment that the war 
on drugs has been a failure.

"Saying it's a failure probably gives it too much credit," he told 
the Hutchinson Drug Impact Task Force on Thursday.

Leininger, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said the 
drug war has been counterproductive and harmful, with stratospheric 
costs while never accomplishing its goals.

"It's not hard to get whatever drug you want right now," he said.

In addition to its financial cost, the war on drugs has put huge 
numbers of nonviolent people in prison and created a violent and 
profitable black market, Leininger said. In contrast to drugs, people 
don't sell beer or liquor on street corners because it isn't 
profitable, he said.

Leininger is a former Wyandotte County prosecutor and attorney for 
the Kansas Highway Patrol, now working as a criminal defense 
attorney. He said his view of the drug war developed over time, 
having seen it firsthand.

He said legalizing drugs wouldn't end all of the problems surrounding 
them, like addiction, but it would accomplish a lot in saving money, 
drying up the black market and reducing other crimes driven by drugs' 
illicit status.

A pair of current and former law enforcement officials said Leininger 
wasn't entirely off base.

Hutchinson Police Chief Dick Heitschmidt said the situation with 
drugs is the same as when he began his career in the early 1970s. 
Heitschmidt said he viewed the war on drugs as currently constituted 
as worthless, especially because it is viewed strictly as a law 
enforcement problem.

Heitschmidt said he didn't know if legalization was the solution, but 
he thought it deserved discussion. He asked Leininger what convinced 
him it would be the best solution. Leininger said the success of 
places that have either legalized or decriminalized drugs was what 
convinced him.

Leininger said rates of drug use in Portugal haven't significantly 
increased since it changed its drug possession laws from criminal to 
administrative cases in 2000, while it has saved substantial sums 
that have helped fund treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Retired officer Howard Shipley agreed that fighting the war on drugs 
is expensive and a lot of that money is wasted. He questioned 
Leininger's assertion that legalizing drugs would reduce property 
crime on the theory that people wouldn't need to steal to fund drug 
habits. Shipley said that people who couldn't find jobs because of 
drug tests likely still would steal to pay for drugs.

Sondra Borth of Communities That Care said she didn't think 
legalizing drugs would solve anything. People would still be 
addicted, and people already steal legal prescription drugs. 
Leininger agreed that legalization itself wouldn't help addiction 
rates, but money used to police, prosecute and incarcerate drug users 
could pay for more treatment opportunities.

Borth said she also was worried that legalization could make drug use 
more acceptable in society. Other members of the task force argued 
that over the past few decades cigarette smoking has been made 
largely unaccepted without ever criminalizing tobacco.

Leininger acknowledged that the likelihood of any big drug policy 
reforms would be remote for the foreseeable future, but his goal was 
gradually changing opinions.

"It's baby steps, and it's going to be baby steps for a long time," he said.

Thursday's meeting was the last that will feature a guest speaker, 
said Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho. Future meetings will focus on 
brainstorming about solutions to drug issues in Hutchinson.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom