Having spent 36 years as an officer with the Denver Police Department, Tony Ryan holds a rather unusual belief on the national drug policy: it needs to go.
Ryan, a speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), will be speaking at the North Wing of Clark A103 Thursday at 5:30 p.m. After Ryan’s lecture, a question and answer session will take place, and following that, an informal discussion at Cheeba Hut.
Debate over the legalization of illegal drugs has gained momentum in recent years, particularly in Colorado. In 2005, voters in Denver legalized possession of a single ounce of marijuana. Last year, Amendment 44, which would’ve decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana across Colorado, was voted down.
No such legislation has surfaced for Larimer County specifically, and drug-related incidents have declined since 2005.
A total of 97 drug-related arrests were made in 2006, a considerable low compared to the 175 arrests in 2005. While statistics for 2007 are not prepared for publication, Fort Collins has seen few large-scale crackdowns over the year, including one incident where law enforcement officials seized $43,000 worth of marijuana, cocaine and LSD among other substances from two residences.
While such debate persists across the country, officers involved with LEAP suggest a more radical idea. According to LEAP’s mission statement as displayed on their website, www.leap.cc, drug prohibition ought to be entirely eliminated, a move that would legalize usage of all drugs, including cocaine, heroin and meth. Instead, such drugs should come under regulation.
“The harm that a drug can cause is all the more reason why that drug should be regulated,” said Mike Smithson, director of LEAP’s Speakers Bureau. “The level of the danger a drug possesses is equivalent to the amount of control that should be had over it.”
Smithson said prohibition only served to increase criminal activity. He compares the current “War on Drugs” to the Prohibition enactment of 1920, under which all alcohol was banned, arguing that both eras saw a massive amount of criminal activity and death related to poorly produced black market products.
Drug dealers and addicts today, Smithson said, are much more likely to resort to violence or theft in their attempts to sell or obtain. Government regulation, he says, would prevent addicts from resorting to such measures, and would take away power from dealers associated with other criminal activity.
For Smithson, advocates of the “War on Drugs” aren’t just ordinary citizens, but also dealers who don’t want their power taken away.
“Whenever we endorse prohibition, we suddenly become partners with the very people we despise,” Smithson said. “People who are in support of prohibition have as their partners drug cartels, organized crime and international terrorists. They are just as much components of keeping prohibition in place.”
There are a number of students at CSU, however, who say they believe LEAP’s proposal wouldn’t benefit the drug problem whatsoever. Alexa Olin, an undeclared freshman, says she has seen lives ruined by drug access.
“There’s already too many drugs going around,” Olin said. “I’ve seen too many middle school kids get their hands on it through parents or whoever, and their lives go down the drain.”
Other students, such as freshman microbiology major Ian McMillan, say that the “War on Drugs” has been too costly to continue fighting.
“Don’t spend money on (fighting) drugs, spend it on people.” McMillan said.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) will be hosting Ryan’s speech. SSDP President Amanda Broz said the group didn’t necessarily hold the same views as LEAP, but encourages the community to see Ryan speak, as he provides a truly non-traditional and interesting perspective.
“Here’s a person who was basically a warrior for the War on Drugs; they saw the people put into jail, what happened to those people, what happened in the police system they were working in,” Broz said. “It’s really interesting to see someone who was fighting the war on drugs and has now changed their mind, and has come out and speak adamantly against it.”
Senior reporter Erik Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Retired Denver Police Officer Tony Ryan says, “Cops want to legalize drugs; ask me why”
When: Tomorrow, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Clark A103