The following speech was given in Eugene, Oregon during the Global Marijuana March earlier this month. The author, Shelly Fox-Loken, gave us permission to post it. Hopefully it inspires TWB readers as much as it did to me:
Hi Everyone and welcome. I want to thank you for coming out on this beautiful day to pre-celebrate our nearing victory in making marijuana legal for adults, in Oregon and nation-wide. My name is Shelley Fox-Loken. I’m a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I represent this organization of more than 80,000 supporters, more than 5,000 of whom have law enforcement experience from around the world. Our group consists of police officers, judges, prosecutors, prison officials and supporters who know that the time has come to end this atrocious war on American citizens who use marijuana.
I’m a retired parole/probation officer and prison counselor. When I first began working as a PO (here in the wonderful, vibrant city of Eugene) it was 1985 and the drug war was just entering high gear. At that time, PO’s were not seen as an extension of the police departments as they are now. Instead we were primarily counselors who attempted to help criminals find ways to stop committing crimes. The problem was, drug offenders really were not criminals, at least to start with. They learned criminality in order to survive in a world that refused to allow them what they needed, wanted or craved. I spent way too much time trying to convince these otherwise non-criminals that they were indeed criminals. What would “cure” their criminality? Legalize drugs.
I don’t know how many times I arrested people and took them to jail for using illegal drugs. But I know it was way too many. Any is too many. Jail is not a treatment program. Prison does not fix medical problems or cure addiction. Jail and prison do not even guarantee that people don’t have access to drugs and alcohol. Jail and prison for any drug users does nothing to keep any of us safer and it exacerbates the problems people are self medicating for. And worst of all, prison destroys lives. Not just the person who goes to prison, either. It adversely impacts the spouses, children, extended family and even employers. It often destroys the very ties that keep people productive and happy. And after we’ve taken away everything, we dump them back out and demand that they behave and comply with conditions that ANY of us would be challenged to do. Sound like a set up for failure? It was. It is. And this approach will always fail.
When I and others in law enforcement went into this profession, it was with the intent to “help others”. After a few years of locking up drug offenders, watching civil rights and liberties be eroded, watching police and corrections officers become corrupt or unethical, and seeing the destruction of too many lives, I realized that this was NOT what I had signed up for. So I left. And now I can try to make MY amends by doing what I can to see these unjust and harmful laws repealed and replaced with sensible regulation.
The war on drug users has failed. There is no one anywhere who can claim otherwise, and no one even tries to. The war on marijuana users though, is about to be won. BY US!! We are succeeding because the public can no longer be lied to, manipulated and driven into a frenzy of fear by those whose motives can only be suspect. The public has discovered that marijuana users are not bad, scary people despite all the propaganda. The public knows marijuana users…their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, car mechanics, food servers, etc. Marijuana users are everywhere and everyone knows someone who uses it responsibly. The lie has been outed, thanks to people like you.
I want to close with a story about my first time working at the OSP in 1980. I was a guard on a tower and it was yard time. A small group of 4-5 inmates sat on the grass under my tower and started smoking a joint together. Being new and “green”, I was very upset and called for yard officers to come take them away to segregation. I was very surprised that the officers sauntered slowly towards the group, talking loudly; making sure the inmates knew they were coming. The inmates continued smoking the joint until the officers were a few feet away and then put it out, with one swallowing the roach. The officers broke up the group, but did nothing about their defiance of the rules. When I asked the Sgt in charge of the yard about it later, he told me that the warden, Hoyt Cupp, had an unofficial policy of ignoring marijuana use by inmates. Reportedly, he felt they were much easier to deal with when high on weed as opposed to the violent and life-threatening results of inmates consuming homemade alcohol. He was a man ahead of the times.
Thank you. Enjoy the celebration. Keep up the good work as the war isn’t quite over yet. Keep fighting for what’s right.