Pubdate: Sat, 11 Jun 2016
Source: Lowell Sun (MA)
Copyright: 2016 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Author: Patrick Heintz
Note: Officer Patrick Heintz (Ret.) spent more than 20 years as a 
corrections officer and substance abuse counselor. He is now a 
speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of 
criminal justice professionals working to legalize marijuana.


I'm a retired corrections officer and substance abuse counselor, and 
I'm tired of hearing the same reasons as to why we shouldn't legalize 
marijuana that we've been hearing for the past 40 years. 
Massachusetts has a special opportunity to improve public safety and 
limit marijuana access to the young and at-risk. Marijuana is not 
harmless, and given my background in substance abuse counseling, I am 
firmly against any kind of substance abuse.

However, marijuana prohibition and its consequences on individuals, 
families, and communities are far worse than using the drug.

Thankfully, our state has already taken an obvious step in the right 
direction by decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana 
for adults.

This keeps innocent people out of prison and frees up significant 
time and resources within our justice system to focus on real crimes.

I am hoping we can all agree that our limited human and monetary 
resources should be spent pursuing thieves, murderers, and rapists 
instead of nonviolent, otherwise law-abiding adult marijuana consumers.

While decriminalization is a massive improvement over outright 
prohibition, we should consider the consequences of not taking the 
next logical step.

Without regulation, the troubling questions of where the unregulated 
marijuana comes from, whether it's contaminated, who is selling it, 
who gets that money, and how that money is being used and by whom, 
are left unanswered. Decriminalization without regulation leaves 
dangerous criminals in the exact same position of power as before. 
They continue to murder each other and innocent civilians, and they 
entice at-risk youth to a life of crime with promises of huge sums of 
money and power.

The only way to dismantle a profitable, illegal, unregulated 
enterprise is to sensibly regulate it. This strategy works by cutting 
off the uninterrupted flow of funding to our present-day gangsters.

Regulation keeps all of us safer, especially children.

When people purchase unregulated marijuana from a dangerous criminal, 
they don't need an ID and are often enabled and encouraged to try 
other drugs. Regulated points of sale will address this risk to 
adults and children alike.

Adult consumers will surely choose a safer, legal option over a risky 
interaction that results in a questionable product. This choice is 
what will greatly reduce the need for illegal marijuana markets.

Some kids will surely want to circumvent age-restricted regulation, 
but they will have much less opportunity within a well-regulated system.

This has been true of regulated alcohol and tobacco for years.

This year, we have an opportunity to make a significant improvement 
to public policy.

We have the luxury of not being the first jurisdiction to implement a 
marijuana legalization program.

I urge my state and fellow law enforcement and criminal justice 
professionals to think very seriously about how regulating marijuana 
stands to impact criminal enterprises and improve public safety.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom