Neill Franklin told a group of Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotarians he believes all drugs should be legalized and regulated, an idea that likely won't get much support from Brevard County law enforcement leaders. Photo courtesy Florida Today
(Florida Today) -- Neill Franklin knows it's a scary idea, but the former police officer
says the best way to cut crime and fatal overdoses is to legalize
Franklin, executive director of Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former undercover drug
investigator from Maryland, told the Cocoa Beach Daybreak Rotarians over
breakfast Tuesday. His message was untraditional, but welcomed by many:
legalize and regulate drugs to curb crime and addictions.
literally turned our drug management system over to the criminals,"
Franklin said. "The question is, since we know we can't keep drugs out
of our country, what's the best way to manage (them)? ... I know one
thing: It's not prohibition. It has to be regulation. It's the ugly word
that people hate to use: legalization."
idea is backed by LEAP, a decade-old non-profit that advocates a stop
to the so-called "War on Drugs" based on a belief that current drug
policy fails to address problems associated with drug abuse. Franklin
said legalizing and regulating drugs will save law enforcement time and
money, as well as potentially create a profit for government.
said a growing number of law enforcement officers are backing the
cause. That support is not coming from some top law enforcers in Brevard
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," Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said.
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."
Palm Bay, where drugs are linked to most homicides and violent crimes,
Police Chief Doug Muldoon is skeptical. Some drugs already are legal by
prescription, but still are abused, he said.
have the pill mills that are out there," he said. "We have licensed
doctors, licensed pharmacists giving out illegal prescriptions. It's
already controlled and causing numerous illegal activities."
Franklin, who spent 34 years working with Maryland State Police and
Baltimore police overseeing education and training as well as drug
enforcement, is traveling around Florida asking people to consider
alternatives to the way the nation regulates and punishes drug use. In
2000, one of Franklin's close friends - also a police officer - was shot
and killed while making an undercover drug deal.
still chokes up talking about it, the tragic moment that he said
motivated him to begin advocating an end to the four-decade drug war. He
knows widespread change could be a long way off, but hopes to get
just trying to get a conversation started," he said. "I want it started
in our communities, in our state capitols, in Tallahassee. ... There's
only one direction to go in."
Beach Rotarian Jimmy Love knows about the drug trade firsthand. He said
while growing up on Merritt Island, many of his family members were
addicts or dealers. He saw people doing anything they could to support
their addiction, and believes decriminalization would allow more
resources to go to treatment.
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
vast majority of people who sell drugs are opportunists. It's so easy,"
Franklin said, adding that regulating drugs could drop prices so far
that illicit sales are no longer profitable.
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
said he's seen cases where drug offenders spend more time behind bars
than violent or sex offenders. He said before the 1970s drug war, police
solved nine of 10 homicides. In 2011, only about six of 10 were solved,
according to FBI statistics.
suggested looking at how Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana,
or the regulation of tobacco and alcohol in the United States as
examples. Muldoon said there is widespread speculation about whether
legalization in those states will increase or decrease crime. He said
time will tell.
to make cigarette smoking socially unacceptable through education could
work for drugs too, Franklin said. "They kicked the habit ... without
sending anyone to prison, without anyone getting shot in the street."