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Marijuana prohibition's end would unite police, community, advocate says

neill franklin cropped.jpg
Neill Franklin.
Tonight, Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop who's now the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, aka LEAP, will be speaking in Denver (details below) about ending marijuana prohibition in Colorado.

If that happened, he believes, "it would be very significant in reuniting police and the community again."

Among the topics on tonight's agenda is "the cost of marijuana prohibition throughout the country, and in Colorado," says Franklin, who spoke with us in January to decry U.S. Attorney John Walsh's closure-threat letters to dispensaries near schools. "And there are many different costs, from incarceration to the disparity issues associated with incarceration. Because wittingly or unwittingly, blacks and Latinos are targeted many than any other groups. But we'll also talk about what benefits there would be to move into a world of regulation and control, including a reduction in crime and improved police relations among communities.

neill franklin with leap leaders.jpg
Franklin and other LEAP members mark the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs.
"We already know that the primary reason, or what appears to be the primary reason, that police come into our communities is to look for drugs," he continues. "And marijuana is the number one drug, which is evident because the vast number of drug arrests are for marijuana, by far. And that drives a wedge between police and communities -- especially communities of color. But with regulation, we would see some significant changes, including to racial profiling, which would be greatly affected in a good way if we were to legalize marijuana."

As an example, Franklin references a recent event held in Baltimore. "There was a large crowd of community members there," he recalls, "and I told them, 'If I was still an active Baltimore police officer, when this event was over, I could stop any of you and arrest you.' And just like that, the place got completely quiet -- and I was able to articulate to them that 'If I smell marijuana on your person, I can arrest you, detain you and search you, just like that, and the courts will uphold it.'

"That's a power the police don't need," he adds, "and something that needs to be changed. And it's a big reason why we have so many problems with police in our communities inappropriately stopping, detaining and searching people."

In addition, Franklin feels that decriminalizing pot will revolutionize policing in what he refers to as "a world of post-marijuana prohibition. They'll be able to focus on crimes of violence, crimes of people hurting each other -- robberies, domestic violence, crimes against our children. Instead of spending a vast amount of time enforcing marijuana laws, we can redirect those resources to areas that would greatly improve public safety."

Page down to continue reading our interview with LEAP's Neill Franklin.



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