Current, Former Cops Make Push to Legalize Marijuana Ahead of Election

A group of police officers works to get out the vote on a Colorado initiative to legalize marijuana.

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LEAP's pro-legalization police car in Chicago in September.

Less than 50 days before Election Day, a group of current and former police officers are ramping up their efforts to push for the legalization of marijuana in the United States.

On Thursday, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Medford, Mass., announced it would support get-out-the-vote efforts for Amendment 64, a Colorado ballot initiative to essentially legalize marijuana.

Tony Ryan, who spent 36 years on Denver's police force and now serves on LEAP's board, is pushing for Amendment 64. "I'd been thinking about this much of my career," Ryan tells Whispers. "I saw that marijuana wasn't the cause of disturbances, crimes, or homicides—something like alcohol was."

Ryan says he often noticed police officers spending several hours processing a person found with only a small amount of marijuana. "That perturbed me," he says. "It detracts from the police officer's job in my mind."

Though LEAP is a 501(c)(3) group and therefore unable to legally oppose or endorse candidates, it has been outspoken about its frustration with President Obama's drug policies.

In August, the Obama campaign released an ad featuring the actors who portrayed stoners in the Harold & Kumar movies, which some perceived as a nod to marijuana users. But LEAP Executive Director Neill Franklin wrote on the group's Facebook page that the ad was"not being honest" as President Obama "has been avoiding answering questions" on marijuana legalization.

"Obama has been disappointing," LEAP spokesman Tom Angell says. "His words have not matched his policies."

While LEAP and others had hoped Obama would allow states to decide on marijuana legalization, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says it has made other "revolutionary" strides to reform drug policy. The office cites the signing of a fair sentencing act into law under Obama, and the release of the first-ever national drug prevention strategy.

In response to a petition last year to legalize marijuana, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske wrote on the White House website: "[Marijuana] is not a benign drug. As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.