Campus, News

Legalize it, an ex-cop implores

One arrest was all it took for former Seattle Police Department Chief Norm Stamper to go from making regular drug busts for 34 years to advocating for drug legalization as a retiree.
Stamper said he was forever changed when he went after a 19-year-old with a felony charge for possessing marijuana. Stamper and his fellow officers had gone into the boy’s house to discover him flushing marijuana down the toilet, and they had to scrape out seeds and stems from the bottom of the bowl to find grounds to arrest him.
‘He had been in his own home,’ Stamper said. ‘I had, looking back on this experience, invaded his privacy. Not only have I made a criminal for life out of this person, I could have been doing real police work. I could have been going after people who were hurting people.’
Stamper spoke to an audience of about 20 at a Students for a Sensible Drug Policy gathering in the Stone Science Building about what he called ‘the most damning, dysfunctional social problem since slavery,’ the War on Drugs.
‘We have spent $1 trillion fighting the War on Drugs,’ Stamper said. ‘But you don’t wage a war on drugs. You wage a war on people, who are disproportionately of color, disproportionately young and disproportionately poor.’
Stamper, a member of the pro-legalization organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, called the drug war ‘a monumental mission un-accomplished.’
After 34 years of working as a police officer, Stamper retired and began advocating for drug legalization, a difficult task, he said.’
‘There is a belief that if we make something illegal, it will go away,’ Stamper said. ‘I fear that every year that this drug war goes on and on and on, the reputation of law enforcement gets worse and worse.’
Stamper said his views have garnered him opposition – a police officer once came up to him after a presentation and said that though legalization may make sense economically, he found the prospect of legalized drug indefensible as a former decade-long methamphetamine addict.
‘How did you get that drug?’ Stamper said in response. ‘It’s a crime to own that drug. But you were still able to get enough crystal meth to have a 10-year addiction . . . I think we have to look at what’s real. What’s real is that if you want a drug, you can get it.’
Many of the audience members said they were involved with the BU and Northeastern University chapters of SSDP.
‘I feel like he’s preaching to the choir, and these kinds of conversations aren’t happening with law enforcement,’ Massachusetts College of Art and Design senior Liz Pasek-Allen said, though she added, ‘It definitely touched on a lot of things that I think are true.’
BU SSDP President Stacy Fontana said she agreed with Stamper, saying that though many people believe that the War on Drugs is not working, few people are offering any quick solutions.
‘Part of working for student government is realizing that it won’t affect you, but it can affect the next generation,’ she said. ‘I think, it won’t affect me, but it will affect my little cousin.’

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