With the vote on Amendment 2 less than two months away, the movement to legalize medical marijuana in Florida has received an endorsement from an unlikely group: law enforcement. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nationwide group of current and former law enforcement and criminal justice officials, believe in the full legalization of drugs as an alternative to the "War on Drugs.” Although legalizing medical marijuana in Florida falls short of the group's ultimate goal of full legalization, they still consider it a good first step, according to Florida Watchdog.
LEAP has 150,000 members, including former and current police officers, prosecutors, judges, federal agents, customs and border patrol agents, and corrections officers. These individuals have fought on the front lines in the “War on Drugs,” seen the wars failure first hand, and as a result are backing the movement to end drug prohibition
“We support medical marijuana in Florida, and we support the full legalization of marijuana,” said Joe Baldi, a retired police officer and spokesman for LEAP during an interview.
Has The "War on Drugs" Failed?
In the 40 years since the "War on Drugs" was declared, the government has spent tens of billions of dollars each year attempting to reduce the illegal drug trade, and has made nearly 40 million non-violent drug arrests, mostly for marijuana. In fact, marijuana now accounts for more than half of all drug arrests in the U.S., and of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for possession only, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
This says nothing of the lives lost, whether from death or those whose lives were ruined by a prison sentence that resulted from marijuana possession.
Yet, the "War on Drugs" rages on, despite drugs being cheaper, more potent, and more widely used than when the fight began, according to LEAP. In the opinion of LEAP members, prohibition does not reduce the use or abuse of drugs.
Even after a drug dealer's arrest, the supply and demand for substances do not diminish. Rather, a job opening is created for another person to step in and reap the enormous profits the drug trade has to offer.
What If Drug Prohibition Ended?
If drugs were legal, criminals would no longer have a monopoly on the market, and an appropriate system for regulation, distribution, and use could be established. This type of control would eliminate the need for drug users to deal with shady criminals, reduce addiction, and make it more difficult for children to get ahold of drugs, according to LEAP. It would also remove the need for police officers to focus on drug related crime, and instead concentrate on eliminating crimes that could actually make their communities safer.
Ending prohibition may not just make the community safer, but could also lower taxes. If billions of tax dollars were no longer needed to fight the "War on Drugs,” more money would be available to fight other crimes — or taxes could be lowered all together because that money is no longer needed. At the same time, drugs could be taxed, which would provide the federal government, as well as state and local governments, with tax revenue from a previously untapped source.
While such a radical plan does sounds promising, it is certainly not imminent. In the meantime, states are legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, while some local governments have voted to decriminalize it.
How Would Florida Benefit From Legalizing Medical Marijuana?
Florida is one of the states currently debating whether or not to legalize medical marijuana, and will vote on it November 8. Although, the alleged benefits of ending drug prohibition would not be realized by legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, that does not mean legalization has no benefits.
Legalizing medical marijuana would improve the quality of life for a wide range of people suffering from debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's, seizures, and PTSD to name a few. On top of the medical benefits, it is likely to also provide a boost to Florida’s economy.
Support for Amendment 2 has come from United for Care, an organization led by our own John Morgan. The group's efforts fell just short on a similar measure in 2014, but recent polls suggest a majority of Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana.
Nov. 9 Update: Amendment 2 passed, earning 71 percent of the vote. Read more about this historic movement.