LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) representative Patrick Heintz, former Correctional Officer, discusses the failed “War on Drugs” and the absurd mandatory/minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders in a video posted with this article. He describes what he witnessed as a Correctional Officer and licensed substance abuse counselor for 15 years the and offers advice for those still stuck in the ‘Drug Game.’
There are currently over 200,000 members in LEAP world wide and all are advocating for a change of the current drug policy, which has been an enormous failure.
He notes that education is much more effective in substance abuse reduction than punishment and incarceration.
He adds that crime associated with drug prohibition puts everybody in the community at risk. It puts officers and law enforcement personnel at “horrible risk”, just like the prohibition of the 1920’s enriched and empowered the gangsters of that era.
Mr. Heintz endorses a rational public health model and a drug policy that will keep people from using and abusing drugs and by taking responsibility, much like when the demand for illegal alcohol was reduced during the 1920’s prohibition era, the criminals were put out of business.
Worldwide over $355 billion dollars is estimated to go to the drug cartels every year.
By working in corrections for 20 years, he witnessed the revolving door of inter-generational nature in the failed “War on Drugs”. He spoke of having 3 generations of a family all imprisoned and that incarceration for non-violent drug offenders did not serve the prison population or the community.
Recidivism was especially frustrating as the prisoners were not given an option such as job readiness training or education. “Putting non-violent drug offenders in with truly dangerous criminal people is counter-productive”. Incarceration of non-violent drug offenders tends to create criminal, anti-social mentalities and behavior for those prisoners who otherwise did not have it before they went to jail.
“People need to realize it is such a waste and no good purpose can come from incarceration for drug laws. We need to raise the consciousness in people so they can decide for themselves”.
He continued by noting that almost every person who is incarcerated for drugs has relatives and it affects the whole family system and that 25% of the prison population is for simple drug possession.
“Mandatory/minimum sentences is one of the biggest, unmitigated travesties. They are a disaster and result in the over-crowding of jails. Violent offenders can be released early as they do not have a mandatory/minimum”. The DEA’s ability to intercept drugs in the United States is 5%.
Mr. Heintz believes that the taxation and regulation of the drug market will put an end to the violent drug dealing factions and will increase public safety.
He goes on to state that “tobacco kills 400,000 people a year and it is legal, taxed and regulated. With those taxes, communities have created public education services and tobacco consumption has been reduced from 75% to 17%”.
Currently, Utah marijuana laws state that a citizens’ drivers license can be suspended for 6 months when convicted of any drug offense, including the mere possession of marijuana or paraphenalia. The Utah marijuana tax stamp law mandates that those who possess marijuana must purchase and affix a state issued “tax stamp” onto any contraband and failure to do so can result in a felony offense. Possession of larger quantities or possession with intent to distribute usually result in jail or prison.
Legalize Utah, a grassroots organization, is working to change the laws that affect all Utah citizens. By working with groups such as LEAP, the hope is that someday soon the laws will be changed and mandatory/minimum sentences for drug offenses will be a thing of the past.