DDN October2021 October 2021 - Page 10

suited my ego to be getting good at it . So I was really at war with myself , because these things were becoming quite obvious . But I was denying them .’
While his attitude to people with a drug problem had long since changed , this had originally made him more convinced he was doing the right thing , he says . ‘ As soon as I got to know people I learned very quickly that my assumptions were entirely wrong . That these were people who were coping with what had happened to them . I understood that quite quickly , so that made me doubt what I was doing , but even then I used that information to fire myself up – “ well , then it ’ s even more important to catch the gangsters exploiting them ”.’
This mental struggle and ‘ denying the evidence ’ he saw around him eventually helped to bring on a crisis , he says . He ’ d gone back into conventional detective work and was determined to use his experience to bring influence , but in those days there was ‘ no institutional interest in engaging with the topic at all . That was the catalyst for my final mental breakdown , I think . I felt I had to do something and I couldn ’ t do it within the job . I was a mess – I was seeing myself in the mirror and seeing the enemy .’
GLOBAL MOVEMENT More and more police are clearly starting to feel the same way , and LEAP is now a ‘ global movement ’, he states . ‘ Also , obviously , when police say these things we get listened to more than most – that ’ s why I invest all of my time in trying to make this grow .’ Many of LEAP ’ s members are still serving officers , although this is less the case in the UK .
‘ In Norway more than half of the membership are serving cops , and the chair of LEAP Scandinavia is still a senior detective . But different societies are more tolerant about their police speaking out like that .’ However , police in the UK are still leading the reform debate , he believes , ‘ in spite of central politics rather than because of it . Many police leaders are way , way ahead of politicians , particularly in calls for HAT and overdose prevention sites .’
LEAP now has more than 150,000 members from around 20
countries , and is in favour of full legalization and regulation . ‘ We ’ re full fat reformers ,’ he states , ‘ but with the caveat that any regulation should be done with a focus on social equity . Poor communities that rely on the cannabis economy , for example , are going to be further marginalised if we ’ re not careful and don ’ t use the opportunity of regulation to revitalise communities that really need that boost .’
SAFETY FIRST Is he not concerned that legalisation would inevitably lead to an increase in use , and the health harms that go with it ? ‘ Consumption is the bogeyman of the prohibitionist ,’ he says . ‘ It ’ s the numbers of deaths and problematic use that ’ s the most important , and through regulation we will reduce problematic consumption – and we can invest in health interventions if we ’ re not spending a fortune on criminal interventions .
Personally , I don ’ t care if more people start using cannabis . What I want is the safest possible option of regulating that drug and any other drug . I don ’ t care if someone wants to take MDMA and dance in a field . I just want that experience to be as safe as possible , and I don ’ t care if twice as many people do it after regulation . Because the evidence shows it ’ s a substantially safer drug than alcohol , and alcohol deaths might well reduce through a broader selection of commodities .’
What about the argument that where regulation has been tried it hasn ’ t worked – for example with cannabis in Canada , where it
‘ I don ’ t care if more people start using cannabis . What I want is the safest possible option of regulating that drug and any other drug . I don ’ t care if someone wants to take MDMA and dance in a field . I just want that experience to be as safe as possible .’
seems that people are still buying from dealers because the regulated and taxed product is too expensive . ‘ Well , it has worked , because 50 per cent of the market has been taken off organised crime ,’ he states .
‘ From a policing perspective , that ’ s great . The police always talk about taking the money off criminals , and they celebrate when they seize little bits and bobs , but that ’ s an enormous amount . They made major mistakes in Canada – overpricing , not investing in the quality . But they ’ ve at least got some semblance of control that they can tweak to get more control .
You ’ ve got to be in the game to win it .’
COMMUNITY CRISIS What he wants the public to understand is ‘ we ’ ve got a crisis – a multi-faced one ,’ he says . ‘ We have a crisis of drug deaths , a crisis of the power of organised crime in our communities , a crisis of exploited children , and a crisis of corruption . And political change comes more often from a crisis than anything else . The social movement should grow along the lines that we need to respond to this .’
So what should people do if they want to play their part ? ‘ Obviously the stock answer is “ write to your MP ”, and that ’ s good advice because they do take notice . But LEAP UK and Anyone ’ s Child have developed a very cheeky video ( www . youtube . com / watch ? v = dm-BWHnJtxA ). The police are increasingly using social media to celebrate their drug policing activities – we ’ ve all seen them , the drugs seizures and so on – so this video is basically a tool for anyone to post in the comments below those social media posts . If you use it politely , “ Please officers would you mind looking at this ”, they will view it , I know that .
‘ People tend to respond to those posts very rudely – “ Why don ’ t you go catch some paedophiles ”, and so on . They ’ re not going to take any notice of that , but they will take notice of this . If people keep using it , the message will get through . It ’ s being used all over the world , and it ’ s genuinely having an impact . So please everyone use it .’ DDN ukleap . org
10 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • OCTOBER 2021
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