OGDEN -- The war on drugs may have been declared over by national drug czar Gil Kerlikowske in 2009, but the controversy over the laws in place to control drug use continues to incense people on both sides of the legal argument. According to LEAP -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- the problems caused by America's drug laws warrant enough attention to be kept in the public consciousness.
James Mooney, a former undercover narcotics officer who is now a public speaker on behalf of LEAP, spoke about his experience at Tuesday's Weber County Commission meeting.
"I was about to arrest these people inside a home ... and I ended up hearing this little boy crying. I realized that I was about to take away his parents for 10 years and basically create an orphan. I realized that the basic structure of every civilization is the family, and the war on drugs is decimating our families," Mooney said.
LEAP is made up of former law enforcement officers and criminal justice system members who oppose current drug policies. The organization sends speakers to various public events to educate people about the judicial system's reasons for continuing the war on drugs.
"The only reason this thing has kept on going is because of money. The war on drugs is responsible for about 70 percent of all finances in the judicial system. It is an excuse to violate people's rights, and it is unconstitutional," Mooney said.
Weber County officials involved in the court system, however, do not share the opinion of LEAP, pointing out the harmful effects that drug abuse can have, not only on users but also on the people around them.
"If we had no drug laws, it would be a complete fiasco of a society. Drug use is detrimental to our society, and people that use them are victimizing other people to get drugs. They can victimize their family members and neglect their own children," said Dean Saunders, a deputy Weber County attorney who works in the drug court.
Two states, Washington and Colorado, recently legalized marijuana within their state boundaries, for both medical and recreational purposes, although most of the laws concerning the drug will not come into effect until late 2013. Even though many lawmakers obviously still oppose drug legalization, the limits within these states' laws may present an example of how a middle ground can be reached on the drug issue as a whole.
Kerlikowske has spoken against the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, and has supported efforts to produce studies indicating a link between marijuana and criminal activity. He also said in a 2009 KUOW radio interview that legalization is not something the Obama administration would consider.
Another deputy Weber County Attorney, Christopher Allred, also feels that getting rid of laws against drug use and trafficking would not be in the best interest of the general population.
"I think it's foolish. It's amazingly self-evident that all the harm done by meth, heroin and other drugs to society is overwhelming, and to turn a blind eye to it makes zero sense," Allred said.
Saunders also rebutted the claim that the judicial system might be benefiting financially from drug convictions.
"We have a large number of drug cases each year. Paying for the care and treatment of these people is not a money-making proposition for this community in any way," Saunders said.
Mooney maintains that the potential for corruption in drug prosecutions exists based on financial motivation.
"If a county gets a person to accept a plea bargain rather than let the person fight the charges, then the federal government gives them money. We have a system that does not want people to stay out of jail. LEAP feels that the best way to keep people away from drugs is to educate them and keep talking about it, rather than give them such severe punishment," Mooney said.
Anyone who wishes to learn more about LEAP can go to its website at www.leap.cc.