Former Police Narcotics Officer to Address Community about the Benefits of Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

Press Release May 17, 2012
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Art Way 720-288-6924</p>

Denver, CO—On Tuesday, May 22, from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at Cleo Parker Robinson’s Dance Studio, 119 Park Avenue West, the Drug Policy Alliance and other allies – including the ACLU of CO and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition – will host Neill Franklin, former narcotics officer and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), to raise awareness and support for ending marijuana prohibition in Colorado.

Franklin is a 33-year law enforcement veteran. He retired from the Maryland State Police in 1999. During his time on the force he held the position of commander for the Education and Training Division and the Bureau of Drug and Criminal Enforcement. He now leads LEAP as the organization’s executive director.

Franklin’s talk comes as voters in Colorado will soon have a chance make history by supporting tax and regulatory proposals such as Amendment 64, and possibly other initiatives, that decriminalize marijuana for adult possession and use. Advocates have applauded recent reforms concerning marijuana in Colorado and want to ensure the community realizes legalization efforts are a continuation of recent success.

“Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities. It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens,” said Art Way, Colorado drug policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance.  “What often gets overlooked are the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction and how blanket prohibition is actually in opposition to public health and safety. We also intend to address our medical marijuana system, the impact prohibition has on immigration policies and the public health costs of marijuana compared to alcohol and tobacco.”

Nearly 50 percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana at some point in their lives. Tragically, although statistics show that people of all races consume marijuana at the same rates, people of color overwhelmingly suffer the criminal consequences.  In Denver, African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession in grossly disproportionate numbers.  Blacks in Denver make up approximately 10 percent of the total population, yet more than 30 percent of the arrests for marijuana possession.

Colorado has led the way for broad marijuana reform but there is still more to accomplish.  More than 12,000 Coloradoans were arrested for marijuana in 2010. Despite changes regarding possession, many still find themselves facing felony charges for distribution despite possessing what is now considered minor amounts.  Advocates plan to reveal both the fiscal and human costs of marijuana prohibition to ensure many are aware of the need to support drug policy that is based on reason, compassion and health.

“Once someone is convicted of even a minor possession offense, they are subject to a system of legal discrimination that makes it difficult or impossible to secure housing, employment, public assistance, federal student aid for higher education, or even a basic driver’s license,” Way said. “Absent a conviction, the collateral consequences of a mere arrest can include immeasurable stigma and humiliation, the financial burden of posting bail and hiring a lawyer, and lost hours at work or school. The toll is quite significant and unnecessarily harsh.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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