Press release from LEAP:
Federal Drug Agency Bans Pro-Legalization Police Group From Conference
SAMHSA Doesn’t Want Views Expressed at Treatment Event in Chicago
CHICAGO, IL — 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 www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.
It’s not like LEAP wanted to have a panel or speaker at the conference â€” they just wanted to have a booth like many other organizations and pass out information to people who voluntarily stopped by. And they were willing to pay the fee to do it.
And that was too threatening to SAMHSA to allow.
Now, I understand that conferences are intended to get people motivated and excited about what they do, and so maybe it would be counter to the purpose of the conference to have a group at a treatment conference that was opposed to treatment. But that’s not the case with LEAP at all. They’re strongly supportive of treatment. In fact, they prefer that we deal with drugs as a public health issue, which obviously would include a strong treatment component.
So why is the treatment industry so solidly in the prohibitionist camp?
Is it the money?
Could be, and that was my first thought. After all, 37.8% of all treatment admissions (2008) were referred there by the criminal justice system. That’s 700,000 admissions.
And yet, over 300,000 of those criminal justice referrals were for alcohol, a legal drug, so it doesn’t mean that they would lose all criminal justice referrals – not by a long shot. They’d probably lose 180,000 marijuana referrals. And it’s possible that they’d lose admissions in general across the board in currently illegal drugs because legalization and regulation may reduce the harms of drug use (others will say that there will be an increase in admissions due to legalization).
What other reasons do they have for being against even the discussion of legalization?
One could be the skewed personal experience syndrome. Many treatment professionals are former addicts or have had experience with someone who overdosed, etc. And then they work all day with people who have severe problems. This can cause a skewed outlook where you’re unable to see the larger picture and unwilling to consider that the system you’re part of could be part of the problem.
Finally, the treatment system is heavily influenced in a top-down way by the federal government, which has a vested power interest in prohibition. SAMHSA is part of that and can’t avoid it. And it is this administration’s policy to stick their fingers in their ears and make loud nonsense noises whenever the “L” word is spoken.