War On Drugs Can't Be Won, Says U.S. Lawman

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 12, 2002.

  1. By Joanne Laucius, The Ottawa Citizen
    Source: Ottawa Citizen

    The only way to end the war on drugs is to legalize them, says a U.S. sheriff who was once a frontline warrior in the battle. Bill Masters of Colorado's rural San Miguel County has been sheriff -- an elected position -- for 22 years.
    Sheriff Masters, 49, and the father of four, has won a certificate of appreciation from the Drug Enforcement Administration and even helped bust a former town marshal on drug charges.

    But he had a change of heart a few years ago when he made a trip to the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia, for help in a grisly murder case. There were no shortage of bright young recruits on the campus. But most were being trained as drug agents, not murder investigators.

    "We care more about catching pot-smokers than child murderers," said Sheriff Masters, whose book, Drug War Addiction, Notes From the Frontlines of America's #1 Policy Disaster, was published recently. "We spend $50 billion a year on drug enforcement," said Sheriff Masters. "Maybe we should be going after terrorists and child abusers. Or spending it on cancer treatment."

    San Miguel County, which Mr. Masters refers to as "Mayberry," is hardly inner-city Los Angeles. It has a population of only about 8,000 people, but that can swell by 20,000 at the height of ski season at upscale Telluride. It's educated and affluent and has its own sizeable "trust-funding" population.

    In the last election Sheriff Masters ran as a Libertarian (he had previously been a Republican) on a platform of legalizing drugs and won 80 per cent of the vote -- his best result so far. His opponent was a Republican who wanted to strip-search everyone entering the county jail for drugs.

    "We arrested 750,000 people on drug charges the year before Sept. 11, and two terrorists," said Sheriff Masters, whose mother, the former Janet Caldwell, was a member of an Arnprior lumbering family. She left Canada for the U.S. as a young woman.

    Sheriff Masters, who says he takes no drugs himself aside from the occasional painkiller, believes people should make their own decisions -- and be responsible for their own mistakes. Last week, as a guest on a call-in radio show, he was berated by a woman with a heroin-addicted husband. "It's his life," Sheriff Masters responded.

    If people want to use drugs, they will use drugs, argues Sheriff Masters, who says one per cent of the population is using heroin and morphine now -- the same percentage as a century ago. If buying drugs is not criminal and drugs are sold for what it costs to produce them, then the criminal activity around drugs -- murders, robberies, prostitution -- will evaporate, he argues.

    "If a person is addicted to heroin, it's better to prescribe heroin than to allow armed criminals to go out and rob to get the money."

    If drugs were legal, prisons would not be overcrowded with people who are felons for possessing drugs. "Most people aren't walking around the streets drinking beer," he said. "The same thing would happen with marijuana. We have to get rid of the anarchy we have now."

    While the electorate doesn't appear to mind Sheriff Masters' stand, he has taken some harsh criticism. Society can't afford to trivialize or ignore the drug problem, especially if children are at risk, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has said.

    "Making drugs legal would make dangerous substances even more widely available to our young people. That is a chance we cannot take," said Mr. Owens.

    Some suggested that a law-enforcement officer who believes in legalizing drugs should resign. Sheriff Masters took an oath of office to enforce the laws of the U.S. and the state of Colorado, the state's U.S. Attorney, John Suthers, said in December. "If you don't like it, become a critic, not a law enforcement officer," said Mr. Suthers.

    "I guess he doesn't believe in freedom of speech," responded Sheriff Masters.

    Some of Sheriff Masters' fellow lawmen are listening to his arguments.

    Sheriff Bob Braudis of Pitkin County says legalizing drugs would put traffickers out of business and save billions. Drug users need medical help, not jail time. "Eventually others would agree, but it may not happen in my professional lifetime," said Sheriff Braudis.

    Sheriff Masters faces another election this year, and he plans to run. Ron Crickenberger, the national political director of the U.S. Libertarian Party would like him to aim higher, for state representative or Congress.

    Once again, legalizing drugs would be the keystone of his platform.

    There are still drug charges in Sheriff Masters' jurisdiction, but he prefers to concentrate on crimes, like drunk driving, that hurt other people.

    "We prioritize things differently," he said. "If someone is dealing amphetamines out of their house, we deal with it immediately."

    Note: Decorated veteran of drug war says only the option is to legalize them.

    Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
    Author: Joanne Laucius
    Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
    Contact: letters@thecitizen.southam.ca
    Website: http://www.canada.com/ottawa/

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  2. We need more police officers like Sheriff Masters.


    At least he's standing up for what he believes even though he's surrounded by people who don't believe the same.

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