On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon stood before the American people and declared, “Narcotics addiction is a problem which afflicts both the body and the soul of America” and that action must be taken to stem the tide of the narcotic scourge sweeping the nation. Thus began the War on Drugs.
Forty-three years and nearly $1 trillion later, the United States is embroiled in an asymmetrical war against hydra-like drug cartels, precocious smugglers and millions of drug users; for all of their effort, nothing has changed and Americans are getting tired of fighting a losing war.
According to a survey conducted by Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of Americans favor drug rehabilitation over incarceration and 69 percent of Americans see alcohol as a bigger public health problem than marijuana. The massive shift in public opinion may be too surprising, but beneath the surface of the drug debate, a more surprising shift in opinion has come from one of the most unlikely of groups in America: Law Enforcement.
Across the nation, law enforcement officers are beginning to question the efficacy of the war on drugs. Veterans of law enforcement have seen this multi-decade war play out with few favorable results, and many young officers never really saw the point to begin with. A silent revolution is happening in our law enforcement, and anti-prohibition groups comprised of law enforcement officials have been springing up and demanding change.
One such group is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, also known as LEAP. According to LEAP’s website, the organization is “made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of our existing drug policies,” whose goals are “to educate the public, the media and policy makers about the failure of current policies, and to restore the public’s respect for police, which has been greatly diminished by law enforcement’s involvement in enforcing drug prohibition.”
Members of LEAP argue that the war on drug is to blame for many of the societal ills that have become associated with drug use. According to LEAP, drug prohibition drives up the price of drugs and allows dangerous criminal organizations to capitalize on it with heavy profit incentives. LEAP believes ending the costly prohibition on drugs will allow law enforcement to be able to focus on violent crime, and it will also enable more funding to be allocated to drug rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
Among the community of law enforcement officers that see drug prohibition as a costly error are some individuals that look at marijuana legalization and see dollar signs. Budding herbal entrepreneur Patrick Moen is one of the reformed law enforcement officers participating in the growing marijuana industry.
On Dec. 10, 2013, the Wall Street Journal published an article on Moen. “The potential social and financial returns are enormous,” Moen said. He left his long time job as a DEA agent stationed in Portland to become managing director of compliance and senior counsel to Privateer, a Seattle based private equity firm. “The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly,” Moen added.
Founded in 2010, Privateer’s goal is to seek out wealthy individuals that would be eager to invest in the nascent marijuana industry, such as West Coast liberals, Texas millionaires with libertarian sentiments and New York financiers. With $7 million raised in 2013, Privateer seems to be doing a pretty good job. However, Privateer still has difficulty finding good investments due to friction between state and federal law, but that stands to change as Colorado is taking steps to set up a marijuana banking system and the Obama administration is explaining its expectations for banks to work with the marijuana industry.
In the coming years, expect to see more law enforcement officers getting out of the business of drug busting and getting into the business of the marijuana market instead. As the lion will one day lay down with the lamb, so too will the marijuana outlaw go into business with the law enforcement officer.
If there is any group in this nation that should understand the potential for profit in the cannabis trade, it is law enforcement; they see people illicitly making money every day, so why shouldn’t they want a slice of the soon-to-be legal pie? There is money to be made in cannabis, and it is reassuring to hear law enforcement officers openly admit it.