3500 Cops Who Want to Legalize All Drugs
“Just so we’re clear,” began Peter Christ during our first phone conversation, “if you look in Webster’s Dictionary at the word hypocrite, you will see a picture of me. I believed that this drug war was a stupid fucking idea even before I became a cop.”
For 20 years Officer Christ patrolled the town of Tonawanda, New York, a community of 80,000 just outside of Buffalo. Retiring from the force in 1989 as a Captain, he founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of 3,500 former officers working towards the legalization of all drugs. I flew into Buffalo to join Peter for a drive around his old precinct and a discussion of drug policy. It was immediately clear which of the many idling cars in front of the arrivals hall was his. The license plate simply read: CHRIST.
We greeted one another and shook hands. “How did you beat all the Christians in the state of New York for that one?” I asked, pointing back towards the vanity plate.
The youthful 66 year old, with his ponytail and gold earring turned up his hands and grinned. “I was a cop,” he offered puckishly.
“OK, fair enough. Let’s talk about drugs.”
“My favorite topic.”
Peter drove as we talked.
“As an officer, what was your experience with the drug war?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you,” Peter began with a voice like a disc jockey - every word played for maximum effect. “By the time I was on the job four years, it became very evident to me that no matter how vigorously I or my brother and sister officers worked, it didn’t make any difference. We would have a series of burglaries or rapes in our community, somebody would arrest the burglar or the rapist, and for a while we wouldn’t have any more of those crimes. But no matter how many drug arrests we made, it didn’t make any difference. Because those people weren’t victims, they were willing participants in an economic transfer. It’s called business.”
“So, what’s your rationale for legalization?”
“Let me ask you, Roc,” he began, pausing dramatically “do you believe we can win the war on drugs?”
I took a breath.
He raised his hand. “Now, before you answer, let’s define what victory means. Nixon never told us what victory would look like when he declared this war, but it’s a war after all and we know how wars end - they end when you defeat the enemy. We won the Second World War. That means that we don’t fight the Germans or the Japanese or the Italians every six months, right? So, I’m gonna say, if we win the war on drugs, we’ve taken the words marijuana and heroin out of the dictionary. The drugs are gone. Let’s move on. Do you believe that is possible?”