James Peet | LEAP | Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

About James Peet

Former National Park Service Ranger and Former Police Officer
James S. Peet, Ph.D.

"If it weren't for the 'War on Drugs', we wouldn't be having drug wars."

While living in Laos in the early 1970s, James S. Peet was exposed to a world where drugs were a commonplace. Opium and marijuana were sold at market. He also saw the easy availability of illegal drugs in Virginia and Thailand (where he graduated high school), as well as at the University of Miami during the early 1980s - despite the "War on Drugs." Even so, James knew few users, most of his social circle viewing drugs as one of those stupid things to avoid. This fostered his feeling that drug abuse is a personal and societal problem, not one which should be dealt with via the criminal justice system.

James served as a National Park Service law-enforcement ranger, then as a police officer with the City of Alexandria for three years, where he received numerous commendations, including Patrol Officer of the Month. While serving in those capacities, he was required to enforce drug laws, which he did (as he does everything) with a passion. As a beat cop, James enforced those laws by pursuing dealers and users on the street. While doing so, he began to question anew the righteousness of the "War on Drugs."

After hours, James and some of his co-workers would have a couple of beers (a legal drug). It was during these gatherings that he would argue against the "War on Drugs" with his supervisors and fellow cops. While he agreed with their philosophy that many illegal drugs were bad both physically and morally, he disagreed with addressing a medical problem - which is what addiction is - as if it were a criminal problem. He would talk about how if drugs were legalized there would be a reduced need for law enforcement and correctional spending. There would be fewer arrests to make and laws to enforce, as well as less violence. Public monies could then be funneled in more positive ways (such as education and the environment). He still feels this way - and the crime and incarceration statistics support his viewpoint. James recognizes that drug consumption - be it alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances - is an individual decision, albeit one directly affected by the opinions of society, parents, and peers. Rather than tackle the "War on Drugs" using law-enforcement techniques, he feels it will be better fought following the methodology used to reduce smoking and get drunk drivers off the road.

Sumner, Washington, USA

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