D. BERGMAN (VOC)
‘Prohibition is the mother of crime’, in other words: drug prohibition is the mother of crime. It was former British undercover cop Neil Woods who gave the shortest summary of the madness of the war on drugs with these words. He pronounced them on Monday in Amsterdam, at the launch of the Dutch section of LEAPthe international organization of police and justice people who are against the drug war.
Police officers against the war on drugs are hard to find
Has Cornelissen worked for three years – known to most people from the foundation Legalize! † up to that launch, on June 20 in the OBA in Amsterdam. Not full-time and hindered by corona of course, but that long preparation time says something about how difficult it is to find police officers who dare to speak out in public about the absurdity of the war on drugs. In the last week, a Belgian police officer who was to speak withdrew under pressure from his superiors.
Neil Woods: Fanatic drug fighter becomes in favor of regulation
The evening’s program – entitled ‘Police and Drugs – through the eyes of officers’ – was nevertheless very strong. In the international panel, Neil Woods was the most convincing. For years, Woods was sure he was doing something good for society by mercilessly hunting drugs and drug dealers. He infiltrated the most dangerous gangs, worked day and night and eventually contracted PTSD.
By then he understood that what the police do not only has no effect on the availability, price and use of drugs, but that the police only make all the problems worse. And the criminals only get richer, more powerful and more violent.
LEAP Europe was formally brought to life at the Amsterdam Public Library on Monday 20 June
Woods wrote two books about his time in the police force and his experiential knowledge of the counterproductive drug war. He is a board member of LEAP, whose letters previously stood for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but now for Law Enforcement Action Partnership†
The goal remained the same: to bring active and former anti-drug law enforcement officers together to make it clear to politicians that drug regulation works better than prohibition and repression in every way.
Dutch police officers have also made ‘the turn’
In the Dutch panel, Alex van der Plas made it clear how difficult it is for police officers to accept that message. He worked for the police for 32 years, ‘at a strategic, tactical and operational level’, and has been head of regional social security at the NS for five months.
Former police officer Alex van der Plas is co-founder of LEAP Netherlands
‘It’s so deep in our identity that we do something good by fighting drugs,’ said Van der Plas, ‘don’t underestimate how much imagination it takes to allow that other story.’ Van der Plas is co-founder of the Dutch department of LEAP. Sitting next to him was Hans van Duijn, former chairman of the Dutch Police Union† With the VOC, we have regularly worked with Hans, including on the Cannabis Tribunals in The Hague.
‘Legalizing drugs is not the same as releasing them’
An even older acquaintance, Dennis Lahey, delivered a powerful speech between the two panels. We have been friends since the 1990s, when he as DC Lama made stories, columns and cartoons, including for HighLife and later EssensiE† The CNNBS reader may know him as the presenter of Cannabis Liberation Day† But Dennis was now behind the microphone as director of the MDHG, the former Junkie Union.
Dennis Lahey considers hard drug users to be the most affected by drug prohibition…
As long as I know him Dennis is one legalizer who knows that the ban is contrary to personal freedom and, moreover, is not an effective means. ‘When I became director of a so-called junkie association ten years ago,’ he said, ‘I was curious if I could stand behind those words. If there was one group that should be protected by drug prohibition, it would be them: heroin and base coke users who mostly live on the streets and often have a whole range of problems. I soon found out that drug prohibition is actually disastrous for this group.’
Dennis also made it crystal clear that legalizing is not the same as releasing: ‘It is legal to grow tomatoes, but you cannot use all kinds of pesticides for that. The sale of spirits is not allowed in the toy store, but in the liquor store. Driving is only allowed with a driver’s license, if you are 18 and have not been drinking. We recognize the potential dangers of the products in our society and, by regulating the markets, aim to limit those dangers, while giving citizens the freedom to drive a car, drink spirits or eat a tomato.’
Anne-Marie Cockburn (L) with the white sneakers of her daughter Martha, who died from MDMA…
You can’t win the war on drugs
Of all the speakers, Anne-Marie Cockburn impressed me the most. I knew her story from the media: in the summer of 2013, her only child Martha died at the age of 15 after taking half a gram of MDMA.
She directed Anyone’s Child op, an organization for parents of deceased drug users, and is committed to drug regulation. She takes Martha’s white sneakers everywhere she talks about the drug war of which her daughter is one of the countless victims. What a brave woman. And what an important voice in the drug debate.
Organizer Has Cornelissen spent three years preparing the foundation of the Dutch LEAP department…
So: bravo to Has and everyone who made this special evening possible. Let’s hope that many police and justice people have watched the livestream. The videos of the event will be online soon. NRC journalist Camil Driessen was present and interviewed Alex van der Plas: ‘You cannot win the war on drugs’.
More information about LEAP Europe can be found HERE and also HERE at the organizer Psychotropics
Derrick Bergman has been writing about cannabis since the early 1990s, including for Highlife, EssensiE and Leafly. He writes weekly for CNNBS, among other things about the struggle of the Association for the Abolition of the Cannabis Ban (VOC). Derrick is a journalist, photographer, co-founder of the cannabis fair GROWLANDS and thus chairman of the VOC. More information about the VOC: voc-nederland