Federal Drug Agency Bans Pro-Legalization Police Group From Conference

A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs is crying foul after a federal agency reneged on a contract that gave the law enforcers a booth to share their anti-prohibition views at a government-sponsored treatment conference in Chicago next week.

After accepting registration payment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration initially told the police group that it was canceling its booth at the National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery because of overbooking and space concerns. However, Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment later informed LEAP that, in a decision rising all the way to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde’s office, the group was actually being disinvited for its viewpoint.

“It’s alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers who just want to network and collaborate with treatment professionals to achieve our shared goal of preventing substance abuse through effective public policy,” said Neill Franklin, a former narcotics cop with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department who is now executive director of LEAP. “Perhaps the administration was most concerned that LEAP’s law enforcers planned to shine a spotlight on the fact that under President Obama, the White House’s drug control budget maintains the same two-to-one funding ratio in favor of harsh enforcement tactics over effective public health approaches.”

On a phone call with LEAP, Pamela Rodriguez of conference co-host TASC, Inc. of Illinois said that the police group wasn’t welcome at the event because “our policy perspective and our policy objectives are different from you guys.” She added, “It is the emphasis on prohibition vs. legalization that, for me at least, is the glaring dissonance with regard to our agenda.”

SAMHSA has since refunded LEAP’s money. The conference takes place July 26-28 at Chicago’s Downtown Magnificent Mile Marriott Hotel.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. Info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

– Press release from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition on July 22, 2010.