"Law enforcement officers are the ‘foot soldiers’ who put their lives and the lives of others on the line to enforce the drug laws, but the laws don’t create any meaningful improvement. Instead, they make the violence worse."
Over his 25-year career with the Michigan State Police, Theodore “Ted” Nelson served as a patrol officer in Detroit, interdicted drugs at airports, and investigated large-scale narcotic conspiracy cases. His experience enforcing the “war on drugs” spans everything from small arrests as a uniformed trooper to working with the FBI and U.S. Customs on a multi-year investigation of international marijuana trafficking and related murder cases. Ted is also an experienced teacher; he trained officers in asset seizure and forfeiture throughout Michigan, and more recently he taught criminal justice classes to both high school and college students.
Until his retirement in 2000, Ted felt he was doing his part to make a difference and help those in need. It was Ted’s experience working with students which was the impetus for his change of heart regarding the war on drugs. “I got to know many young people on a personal level, and I listened to their thoughts and concerns over drug laws,” he says. “It was my son, Tony, who first introduced me to LEAP and led me to start thinking about the war on drugs in a different light. Law enforcement officers are the ‘foot soldiers’ who put their lives and the lives of others on the line to enforce these laws, but the laws don’t create any meaningful improvement. Instead, they make the violence worse.”
Ted now calls for a big change in drug laws: “We need to take away criminal penalties for drugs and control and regulate them like alcohol,” he says. “The cost to the criminal justice system can be shifted to where it’s needed, and we can get criminal enterprises out of the distribution system.”
An animal-lover, Ted is enjoying his retirement in Michigan. He races Siberian huskies and has a kennel of 25 dogs. He and his family also make and sell dogsleds and supplies.