Students gathered to witness a rare site – a retired federal agent, cowboy and self-proclaimed Republican promoting the legalization of drugs in Palko Hall on Tuesday night.
The Department of Criminal Justice invited Terry Nelson, a retired group adviser for the Department of Homeland Security and executive board member and director of training for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, to address members of the campus community. About 90 people were in attendance.
The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors in support of the legalization and regulation of drugs.
Nelson said neither he nor LEAP supports the use of drugs but instead sought to reduce the harmful consequences from fighting the war on drugs. Nelson said he also wants to restore the public’s lost respect for law enforcement as a result of enforcing drug prohibition laws through arrests, fines and imprisonment.
Nelson stood in front of the crowd, wearing his cowboy hat and boots, and called the government’s current policy on drug prohibition a waste of money and resources that only exist to preserve jobs.
Nelson called marijuana the “low-hanging fruit” for law enforcement.
“I never had to fight a man I was arresting for pot,” Nelson said. “The only thing you might have to do is watch out for your Cheetos.”
Nelson said crime rates and deaths resulting from drug use would decrease if the government adopted decriminalization and regulation policies used in Switzerland and Portugal, which control the market and ensure quality control and standardized measurement.
“I think it would be a good idea,” said Lauren Olaya, senior biology major. “I don’t think it would cause people in the U.S. to use drugs if they weren’t already using them, and I think it would help.”
Although Nelson does admit to having concerns about LEAP’s plan not working, Nelson said it is a risk he is willing to take.
“If we’re wrong then we can try something new,” Nelson said. “But we can’t keep doing the same thing that hasn’t worked for 40 some-odd years.”