WHEN THE Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted 12 days ago to approve the legalization and regulation of marijuana in California, knee-jerk reactions were sure to follow.
This was only a first step toward legislation, but San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer quickly described the looming possibility as "mind-boggling."
John Lovell, speaking for the California Peace Officers Association, said it was "the last thing our society needs."
It wasn't hard to envision lawmen up and down the state nodding in agreement.
The viewpoint is understandable. It is part of the internal wiring of police agencies. The War on Drugs declared by President Nixon in 1971 has spanned four decades and seven administrations.
The thing is, it has failed. A far better idea is to legalize and regulate marijuana sales.
There are at least 1,500 current and former law enforcement professionals who agree. They are members of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), who base their opinions on years of experience.
Jack Cole, co-founder of the 8-year-old organization, is a retired New Jersey State Police lieutenant who served 12 of his 26 years on the job as an undercover narcotics cop. He describes the War on Drugs as "not only a dismal failure but a terribly destructive policy."