Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

People aged 21 and under make up less than one-third of marijuana users but account for half of all possession arrests, according to the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition organization.

Superintendent of Cheshire County prison, adjunct faculty instructor in criminal justice studies for Keene State College and LEAP spokesman, Richard N. Van Wickler, spoke on Feb. 25 in the Mountain View Room of the student center about the LEAP organization.

Wickler said he joined LEAP in 2007 and is now on the Board of Directors of the organization, after being in the United States Army for 26 years.

He said the only solution for the war on drugs is to remove the motive of drug dealers.     

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

First-year Shannon Wall, of the standing-room only crowd, said that she was only attending the event because she would be awarded bonus points on a test for her Introduction to Criminal Justice Studies class.

She said that she had no idea what LEAP was prior to the event. There were three different classes that attended the event, including one of Wickler’s classes.

The LEAP organization was created in 2003 by undercover drug detectives and today consists of 80 thousand members in 90 different countries, Wickler said.

LEAP’s mission is, “to prevent the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs, and to reduce incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ending drug prohibition,” according to the LEAP brochure. 

Wickler said that LEAP is working to legalize drugs but does not advocate the usage of drugs.       

He explained how when a drug dealer is arrested and put in jail, a new job opening is created for other dealers.

Wickler went on to explain how in 1914 no drug was illegal and some drugs, such as heroin, could be bought in a grocery store until 1.3 percent of the population was found addicted, which caused drugs to become illegal.  

Wickler said that people who use drugs are trying to alter their consciousness, which is usually related to their own pain.

He said users don’t intend any sort of violence but the violence comes with protecting themselves, which is directly related to prohibition, according to Wickler.

Wickler went on to explain how in the late 60s President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” that’s mission was to reduce the production, supply and use of drugs.  

Wickler then asked the audience a question — “Is a drug-free society achievable?”

He presented facts to the audience, like the fact that over a trillion U.S. tax dollars have been spent on drug wars.

Therefore, the government would save billions by legalizing drugs and the majority of gang violence, which is drug related, would decline.

He also said that tobacco usage and poor diet and exercise has killed more people than drugs have and that there have never been any deaths directly resulting from marijuana use.

Wickler said he believes drug usage is a health issue rather than a crime, which is why he believes prohibition should not exist.

Wickler gave an example of how Switzerland got rid of prohibition, choosing instead to treat the issue as a health problem, and has not seen one drug-related death since 1996. 

If the government would end prohibition and put a regulation on drugs, more people would be safe. Additionally, the government could mandate the production and distribution of cleaner drugs, Wickler continued.

There are 18.9 million marijuana users and 8.9 million users of other illicit drugs, Wickler said.

He informed the audience that at midnight that night, Feb. 26, Washington D.C. would be legalizing marijuana, making it the fourth state in America.

Wickler said that he is interested in taking care of bad guys, not people altering consciousness and to restore the respect for law enforcement.   

First-year Jessyca Derby was also there for her Introduction to Criminal Justice Studies class. She said that Wickler made really great points and brought support and that she enjoyed the presentation a lot.     

Derby said she wasn’t sure about signing up to support the event because of the time consumption, but eventually did end up signing up in support for LEAP.

Savanna Balkun can be contacted at

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