Ex-drug investigator: Legalize it

Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:00 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

A former undercover narcotics agent thinks U.S. authorities aren’t using the right tactics to fight the war on drugs.

“This is not a war on drugs — it’s a war on people,” said Jack Cole, who spent 26 years with the New Jersey State Police and 12 years as an undercover officer. He calls the law enforcement effort a “dismal failure” and is spreading that message across the country.

He spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia and will make other stops around the state this week, including visits at Washington University and Southwest Missouri State University.

Cole spent 12 years investigating cases that involved everyone from “street drug users and mid-level drug dealers in New Jersey to international billion-dollar drug trafficking organizations,” and has come to the conclusion that the only way to end drug problems is to legalize all drugs.

“The legalization of drugs would bring a lower incidence of death, disease, crime and drug addiction,” Cole said.

Cole and four other former law enforcement officials created the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition a little more than a year ago with the goal of educating the public as to what they see as the failure of current drug policy.

Since that time, the group has grown to more than 50 speakers in 25 states and several nations.

Cole said he joined LEAP because he has “truly seen the horrors of this war.”

He outlined four steps to solving U.S. drug problems.

“The first step is to legalize all drugs,” Cole said. “The second step is to have the federal government produce and quality-control the drugs. … The third step is to have the government distribute free maintenance doses of any drugs to any adults who choose to continue to use them.”

His fourth step would involve “reallocating those saved billions of dollars to programs for treating the addictions of our ill citizens and proactively working to convince others not to use drugs.”

Cole says more than 80 percent of crime committed in the United States is directly or indirectly drug-related and that his steps would eliminate this crime. An election in April 2003 asked voters in Columbia to decide whether punishment for possession of marijuana should be lessened, but the proposition did not pass.

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