"Prohibition does not work and the money we have spent as a nation could
be used for so many other things that this country needs."
Richard Newton understands how futile it is to chase down drug dealers.
He spent 32 years of federal service doing just that, and yet drugs are
cheaper and more plentiful than they were 40 years ago.
In the US Marines, Richard piloted helicopters and operated from
amphibious aircraft carriers. He went on to fight the drug war for
Customs and Border Protection after he left the Marines with the rank of
major. "I thought drug interdiction would be a good thing for the
country," he recalls of his career decision, "and I thought it would be
a great job, which it was. However, I don't think I really believed
interdiction and prohibition worked, even then."
Richard was a skilled, much sought-after pilot and is most proud of the
fact that in 30 years of flying both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft
in fairly hazardous environments and on high risk missions, he has never
had an accident. He was sent to work in locations with the highest
number of aviation drug busts-in Florida during the Miami Vice fueled
heydays of the war on drugs, when cocaine was literally falling out of
the sky, and in Puerto Rico at a time when that aviation branch was
responsible for 75%-80% of the total drug seizures of the Customs
aviation program. "We interdicted loads of cocaine being smuggled into
the US by both boat and aircraft," he says. "My largest interdiction was
1000 kilos of coke, but the street price of coke didn't increase as a
result of that seizure. It got me wondering, how useful was what I was
"During my tenure with Customs and Border Protection, I flew single
engine helicopters along the border, often at 25-50 feet above the
ground without lights, while wearing night vision goggles. If the engine
would have hiccupped, I would have been dead."
"After one of my best friends was killed in May of 2007 in a helicopter
accident, I figured it was not worth risking my life to support a failed
public policy of prohibition."
Richard believes that the use of drugs is a complicated subject, one
that can't be solved with law enforcement but must instead be approached
by social and medical services. "History shows prohibition has not
worked," he says, "not only during the 1920's and 1930's, but also over
the course of the last 40 years."