63 of the Sheriffs with the Florida Sheriffs Association recently voted in favor of a resolution opposing the legalization of marijuana. However, what we’ve found is that not all law enforcement officers in Florida are opposed to legalization. A number of retired Florida law enforcement officers have joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization that is calling for an end to the war on drugs. LEAP favors the legalization of all drugs, their motto is, Drug Abuse is Bad, the Drug War is Worse.
Top Anti-Drug Warriors Now Fighting for Legalization
John Baeza is a retired NYPD detective who moved to Florida and became a Deputy Sheriff for 3 years. Baeza saw the effects of marijuana prohibition on the front lines of the war on drugs. After years of experience he came to the conclusion that drug prohibition does not work, and is in full support of Amendment 2, which would fully legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. While the Florida Sheriffs Association has recently come out against Amendment 2, members of LEAP like John Baeza think it is foolish for law enforcement to get in the way of letting patients have legal access to marijuana.
John began his career in law enforcement as a corrections officer at Sing Sing and eventually became an undercover narcotics officer for the NYPD. “I started out working in the 32 precinct, which is a precinct in Harlem, and while working there most of the issues had to do with crack cocaine at that time. Then I became an undercover police officer, and when I say undercover I don’t mean just plainclothes, I mean you don’t have ID, you don’t have a police badge or shield, you don’t have anything. When I would make these buys, sometimes they would tell us you need to go down this street for marijuana. And many of us who had already seen how useless this is to even arrest anybody for marijuana, many of us who were undercover, we would just walk down the street, we wouldn’t buy anything. Even back then in the 90s, to narcotic officers buying marijuana was basically useless. That was my thinking anyway, and quite a few of the people I worked with, that was their thinking. But thats not all over the nation, New York City there was a high concentration of crack cocaine and cocaine powder, that was why it was such a lesser drug for us to go after. I see marijuana being treated around the country as some sort of pariah, when all it is, is a plant.”
“I don’t think it will affect it all,” John said about legalized medical marijuana effecting law enforcement. “I don’t see it becoming a police issue at all, it’s a medical issue. For people to be arrested for marijuana, especially when they need it for medical purposes, is an absolute abomination.”
Sheriff’s Say Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot
The Florida Sheriffs Association recently came out against Amendment 2 and the legalization of medical marijuana with its “Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot” campaign, and members of LEAP like John Baeza are sharply criticizing the Sheriff Association’s position.
“I think it’s ridiculous for them to come out against medical marijuana. It’s inhumane. People need marijuana to help them with their symptoms, to help keep them alive and have better living conditions, keep them eating and so forth. To come out against medical marijuana is simply ridiculous, but this is what is going on, it’s systemic across the country, people think it’s some kind of evil drug. The Sheriffs will come out against this because they receive money for marijuana drug stings, and they don’t want to see that money dry up. It’s all a part of the police and prison industrial complexes, they need to lock up people, so they continue to do it, so that’s why they came out against it, I think. I don’t really see any reason for it though, these people are sick and they need their medication, if the medication happens to be a plant that they can grow, then hey, that’s even better.”
What is The Right Thing To Do?
Jerry Cameron, another Floridian with LEAP, has served as Chief of Police in several Florida communities, most recently serving as Chief of Police of Fernadina Beach, Florida. Jerry is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the DEA Basic Drug Enforcement Course, as well as two advanced DEA drug enforcement institutes. He was also a teacher of police ethics, management and drug interdiction at the University of North Florida’s Institute of Police Technology and Management. “I believe that we’ve done far more damage than any good that we ever did in prosecuting the war on drugs.”
While Jerry thinks full legalization of marijuana in Florida is unlikely in the near future, he does think positive steps in the right direction will continue to be made, and that ending prohibition will have a positive effect on Florida. “I think Amendment 2 is a step in the right direction. We’ve put millions of people who’ve never committed a violent crime or a property crime, their only crime is being involved with marijuana. If we handled that correctly, I think we could save ourselves a considerable amount of money than what it costs to house those prisoners, and I think we could quit ruining lives and destroying families.”
Retired Lawman Benefits From Medical Marijuana
Anthony Cincotti is another member of LEAP who not only supports Amendment 2, but would also personally benefit from its passage. Anthony worked as a corrections officer in Nevada, after a bad back injury his doctors had him on some of the strongest pain killers such as Dilaudid and Oxycontin, as well as muscle relaxers. At one point Anthony was prescribed up to 14 medications. One of his doctors recommended marijuana, something he had never considered.
The voters of the State of Nevada approved and enacted Question 9 on November 7th, 2000. 65% of voters voted in favor of Question 9. Question 9 amended the state constitution, legalizing the possession, use, and cultivation of medical marijuana, taking effect in October 2001.
Anthony decided to try medical marijuana and it changed his life. “After spending roughly a year confined to a bed or chair I was able to move around the house, in a couple of weeks I was at the bar playing darts with my co-workers. Without medical marijuana, I’d probably still be confined to a bed and taking tons of highly addictive pain killers.” After being in unbearable pain, and put on some of the strongest prescription pain killers and over a dozen other drugs, Anthony was finally able to reduce the number of medications he needed, because of the medical marijuana. “In 45 days I eliminated Diluadid, muscle relaxers, and highly reduced my oxycodone dose . I found a strain for spasms and one for pain, and eliminated all pharmaceuticals.”
Anthony left Nevada and moved to New Jersey where he also fought to help get medical marijuana legalized. He now resides in Florida and expects Amendment 2 to pass. “Amendment 2 is long overdue, the will of the people has been pretty clear for quite some time. The vast majority of the public is not buying into the prohibitionist hysteria.” He believes marijuana should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. “It shouldn’t be anymore regulated than echinacea, an herb.”
What is Motivating The Florida Sheriffs Association?
Anthony believes the budgets of Sheriffs offices are likely a motivating factor in the Florida Sheriffs Association’s decision to oppose Amendment 2. “Too much of their budgets are tied up in drug interdiction. If the funds go down, there will be less asset forfeitures. The Sheriffs Association is not supposed to make the laws, it’s a conflict of interest.” The Florida Sheriffs Association was not available for comment.
For more information on Law Enforcement Against Prohibition go to: www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com