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March 26, 2013 Floridatoday.com
Neill Franklin, a former undercover drug investigator from Maryland, spoke to a group of Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotarians over breakfast this morning, advocating for decriminalization of drugs to curb crime and dangerous addictions.
Franklin is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a decade-old non-profit that advocates a stop to the so-called “War on Drugs” based on the belief that current drug policies fail to address problems of drug abuse. Franklin said legalizing and regulating drugs will save law enforcement time and money, as well as potentially create a profit for government.
He said a growing number of law enforcement officers are joining the movement. That support is not coming from some of the top law enforcers in Brevard County.
"I have spent almost my entire adult life protecting our citizens and communities against the harmful effects of illicit drugs,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. “In the interest of protecting our citizens we can't stop our war on drugs any more safely than we could stop our fight against violent crime or terrorism.
“Legalization does not help stop the abuse of drugs, in fact prescription drugs are the most regulated form of controlled substances we know, yet today they are the most widely abused. Prescription medication has caused almost a thousand deaths in Brevard County alone during the past five years.”
Franklin, who spent 34 years working with Maryland State Police and Baltimore police overseeing education and training as well as drug and criminal enforcement, is traveling around the Sunshine State asking people to consider alternatives to the way the nation currently regulates, and punishes, illegal drug use.
Cocoa Beach Rotarian Jimmy Love knows about the drug trade first hand. He said while growing up on Merritt Island, many of his family members were either addicts or dealers. He saw people doing anything they could to support their addiction, and believes that decriminalization of drugs would allow more resources to go to treatment instead of punishment.
“With the war on drugs, there was no treatment centers, it was all about making an arrest,” Love said. “As (Franklin) said, those people are looked at as scumbags by law enforcement officers. Like they’re worthless.”
Franklin said he’s seen cases where drug offenders spend more time behind bars than violent and sex offenders. He said before the “Drug War” of the 70s, police solved 9 of 10 homicides. In 2011, only about 6 of 10 were solved, according to the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report.
“The vast majority of people who sell drugs are opportunists. It’s so easy,” Franklin said, adding that regulating drugs could drop prices so it’s no longer profitable for street dealers and others engaged in illegal sales.
“You can buy from a guy on the street corner or the local CVS. Here’s my thought process: At the CVS, I can read and know exactly what I’m going to get. I know what the purity is. If I buy from the guy on the street, I know it’s dangerous, cut with other stuff, and if I’m caught buying it from this guy I’m going to go to jail. I’m not going to take that chance.”