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

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.

"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. LEAP backs Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and the organization's release about tonight's get-together also mentions the possibility of other cannabis-related measures reaching the November ballot. In Franklin's view, the success of any of these initiatives would have a far-reaching impact.

"All you've got to do is look at the history of other social changes -- other policies that have changed this country," he says. "Look at marriage equality starting in one state and moving to another and another and another, until eventually it's on the national stage. Or look at the repeal of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s, which went from state to state as they refused to enforce federal policies. That's why the election is absolutely critical.

"If Colorado moves forward in November, there's no doubt in my mind that you'll see other states follow suit. Washington state is poised to do the same, and I think Oregon may also be in that position; I think they're going to meet the number of signatures they need. But I think Colorado stands the best chance. It's where the polling is the best. And the citizens of Colorado are just freer thinking people."

Such measures go well beyond simply allowing adults to smoke weed, Franklin argues. "It's time for the citizens of this country to literally take back the country," he allows. "This is supposed to be a government by and for the people, but we've kind of lost sight of that. So this is our opportunity to make a statement, in addition to doing something that needs to be done to better our neighborhoods, and our communities."

Franklin's presentation, entitled "Let's Talk About Marijuana: A Discussion Series, Vol. 1," takes place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Cleo Parker Robinson's Dance Studio, 119 Park Avenue West. For more details about the gathering, which will also feature Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente, attorney Hans Meyer, psychologist Dr. Erika Joye and the Drug Policy Alliance's Art Way, click here.

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Colorado Democratic Party convention supports Amendment 64."

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