Most retired law enforcement agents are not likely to become advocates for something they’ve spent decades of their lives prohibiting.
But Joseph Brooks is one such man who has.
Brooks, who retired as a Captain from the Manchester Police Department after three decades of service, is the Connecticut speaker for Law Enforcement Agents against Prohibition, also known as LEAP, an international nonprofit group made of former law enforcement agents — police officers, judges, DEA agents, FBI agents and the like.
The group’s mission is to legalize all drugs, which in turn allows the government to regulate them, Brooks said.
With as marijuana appears to — the Senate and House passed the bill (S.B. 1014) and Gov. Dannel Malloy is expected to sign it into law — Brooks spoke with Patch earlier this week, offering his perspective on the likely soon-to-be law in Connecticut.
“Decriminalization — is it a step forward?” Brooks told Patch. “Yeah, it’s like a quarter-step forward. But let’s face it: The person who sells it to the person that’s possessing a half-ounce is still a criminal. You haven’t taken the crime out of marijuana. You’re still looking at the sales person as a criminal.”
Rather than being charged with a misdemeanor, the law, if enacted, will decriminalize possession of less than one half-ounce of marijuana (roughly 14 grams). Violators would face a fine of $150 for their first offense, an infraction. Subsequent offenses — other infractions — would carry with them fines ranging from $200 to $500.
But if the bill’s supposed to help bring in revenues to the state, it’s not doing enough, Brooks said.
The money made by an illegal drug sale — a decriminalized drug possession — is “still going into a criminal enterprise,” he said.
“We’re not bringing in tax revenue. [The money's] still going into the criminal element.”
Rather than targeting the hypothetical illegal drug dealer, Brooks said, the decriminalized marijuana possessor, if caught, gets penalized.
“Quite frankly, if I had marijuana on me, I’m going to eat it, I’m not going to pay another $150,” he said. “If we want to collect money from marijuana, then let’s legalize it, and let’s control it like we do with cigarettes and alcohol. Let’s collect taxes.”
Unlike marijuana, alcohol is often associated with violent crimes, Brooks said.
“If you look at domestic violence — that’s one subject alcohol really exacerbates,” he said. “Then there’s , shootings, stabbings.
“Alcohol, is without a doubt, one of the most violence-producing substances in our society today,” Brooks added. “Marijuana, on the other hand, no, it does not produce violence.”
Brooks said he’s most disappointed in what he calls the “hypocrisy” America shows by perpetuating marijuana laws. He said the laws originally came into place because of racism against the Chinese, Mexicans and African Americans, namely because of myths perpetuated by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger.
Hearst would publish things that, for example, said something along the lines of this: If a black man was high on marijuana, he would want to kill his brother, and if a police officer tried to stop him with a bullet, he wouldn’t be able to, Brooks said.
“More of those kinds of quotes were put into the paper on a regular basis,” he said.
Brooks said the hypocrisy extended into the illegalization of hemp — though hemp and marijuana are both in the Cannabis sativa family, Brooks said, they’re not the same plant.
After illegalizing hemp in 1937, “the federal government in 1942 made a movie called Hemp for Victory, which encouraged farmers to grow it to make ropes and sails for the war effort,” he said. Following the conclusion of World War II, “in 1945, they made it once again illegal. Here’s why we’re talking about hypocrisy.”
Though state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Bethel, one of the chief opponents of the decriminalization legislation, claims marijuana itself , Brooks disagreed. He talked about former Surgeon General Joyce Elder, who held the office in 1993 and 1994. Elder called the substance “benign,” Brooks said, adding she also thought “it should be legalized.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you don’t get much more knowledgeable than the surgeon general,” Brooks said. “Doctors in states where medical marijuana is now legal — they’re not members of a cartel, they’re not trying to sell illegal drugs. They’re doctors and they believe marijuana has a medicinal purpose. They will prescribe it for certain illnesses and certain problems.”
Brooks said marijuana can’t immediately kill people, like something as generic and common as aspirin can.
“Marijuana alone has never caused a death up to now. I can go out and smoke five [joints] right now in a row — I’m not going to overdose,” Brooks said. “Smoking is a long-term sneaky killer. It doesn’t kill you right away. It takes many, many years.”
Though marijuana can have negative side effects, medically speaking, if it can help those in pain, it should be utilized for that purpose, Brooks said.
“If my wife has cancer right at this moment and was suffering the side effects of chemotherapy,” Brooks said, “if it’s going to help her — If my wife was dying from cancer, do you think I’d give a damn about the side effects of marijuana?”
The role of being a police officer had its ups and downs, Brooks said.
“A very, very close friend of mine, someone that I knew for a long, long time — it turned out he was involved with narcotics,” he said, adding that after his friend’s arrest, he was no longer invited to gatherings at his house. “When he passed away — his children who I saw grow up — they didn’t want me at his funeral. It is really a shame. But that’s part of being a police officer.”
Though he encourages discussion on drug laws, Brooks said at the events he speaks at, the topic of marijuana always dominates them.
“In all honesty, marijuana has to be taken care of, gotten off the table,” Brooks said. “Whenever I speak to any group, it always dominates the conversation. We can’t seem to get down to other drugs simply because everyone wants to talk about the most talked about drug, which happens to be marijuana.”
But things have to change, and they will, he said.
“It is our belief that all drugs should be completely legalized,” Brooks said of LEAP, adding legalization brings with it control and medicalization of drugs. “We believe that we can speak with credibility when it comes to the War on Drugs.”