Former Law Enforcement Official Shares Drug War Experiences

This story was written by Megan Peters, Technician
Bill Weiland, retired Pennsylvania State Trooper and security services consultant, addressed faculty and administrators, sharing his experiences in the war on drugs over dinner at Mitch's Tavern Monday evening.

Although Weiland dealt with drugs and drug laws almost daily during his 24 years in the industry, he spoke to the group at Mitch's on Hillsborough Street about his adamant stance against current drug enforcement policies.

Matt Potter, senior in political science and member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at N.C. State, said Weiland knows from experience why the war on drugs is ineffective.

"This is a man who has spent his working life fighting the war on drugs on the frontlines," he said. "He has first-hand experience with fighting the war on drugs and how the war on drugs is a failure. ... It's not working the way it's supposed to."

Weiland represents the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a national nonprofit organization founded in 2002 with a membership comprised of current and former law enforcement and criminal justice professionals.

LEAP is targeting N.C. State, among other universities across the nation, to seek out reform among the people who will "shape the future of our country," according to Weiland.

"We believe if we can influence the students of N.C. State, who are going to be future leaders, then we can find a core group of people ... who are going to assist us in changing the public opinion on drug use," he said. "The leaders of tomorrow are the ones that we are having to influence or romance so they can change the policy."

According to Weiland, affecting change in the drug trade, where $5 trillion and countless staff positions have not over the last 37 years, is a matter of "decriminalizing drugs."

"Why are we wasting 5 trillion [dollars], when we could be targeting more violent offenders?" he said. "We're wasting taxpayers $80 million per year."

Weiland said the paradigm shift he's purporting would regulate less dangerous drugs, such as marijuana, much like the country currently keeps track of tobacco and alcohol.

And it would help reverse the "dramatic increase in younger and first-time users," according to Weiland.

"By taking away the fact that it is fashionable [because it is illegal and risky]," he said, equating recreational drug use to underage drinking. "Statistics show that the attraction drops off."

Potter said NCSU SSDP, a chapter of the larger "international organization of students who have recognized the war on drugs has failed," has similar views to LEAP on where the focus of drug reform should be.

"It is a health issue, not a criminal issues," he said. "We want to show that there are other people besides us who are interested in drug policy reform and they are from very different backgrounds."

Weiland said we should be treating drug users for the underlying social and personal issues surrounding their uses or abuses.

"Drug users should be scrutinized more closely as a medical issue, not ostracized by the community as hardened criminals," he said. "A drug user may not just be a drug user; there are probably other issues there."

And while he doesn't think change will occur "overnight," Weiland said changes must be made in the drug war in the future.

"The war on drug -- not unlike Vietnam and the war on Iraq -- has been lost," he said. "There's got to be another way ... So many people are killed unnecessarily every year that don't need to be."

Weiland will present to criminology classes today and speak about LEAP and his position in room 218 of Daniels Hall at 7 p.m. The event hosted by SSDP is ree and open to the general public, according to Potter.
© 2008 Technician via U-WIRE