"We need to take the control of dangerous substances away from criminals."
Arnold J. (Jim) Byron worked as a United States Customs Inspector at Ports of Entry from Minnesota to Washington State from 1967 until he retired in 1998. For over thirty years he searched vehicles, cargo and people for illegal contraband. When he uncovered smuggling attempts (whether the commodity involved was an illegal drug or whether the violation was connected to one of over 400 different laws that Customs Inspectors enforce) he was responsible for seizing the commodities and the vehicles as well as assessing fines, meting out penalties and even making arrests.
The Drug Control Act of 1970 was monumental in the history of drug prohibition and with President Nixon's proclamation of the US "War on Drugs" America began its journey back to the 1920's where smuggling, corruption, and violence ruled the streets. Mr. Byron found himself in the middle of that war. Canadian border ports did not have the same magnitude of problems for inspectors, as did some seaports, airports or the ports of entry along the Mexican border, but the reports were there for everyone to see. Drugs were being smuggled in ever-increasing frequency. Racial profiling, strip searches and strong-armed tactics, though officially denied, were common. The costs associated with the war on drugs skyrocketed.
At first Mr. Byron believed in the war on drugs, but eventually he started to see that his enforcement efforts were not creating changes for the better. He became convinced that the enforcement measures in which he had been trained would not end drug use.
Mr. Byron became convinced that a "drug-free" America is not only impossible, but is also disingenuous. The recent tobacco settlement is proof that the government is willing to allow the use of dangerous substances even though it doesn't endorse them. He explains that regulating drugs like heroin, cocaine, and cannabis does not mean that the government endorses their use, even if it allows such use to occur. Mr. Byron believes that all dangerous substances should be controlled and regulated and says "We need to take the control of dangerous substances away from criminals and give it to the people."
Mr. Byron is also a volunteer with the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project (http://www.kcba.org/druglaw/index.html) in Seattle, Washington.