This Organization Is On a Mission To Destigmatize Drug Addiction

By David Konow 07/19/16

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a nonprofit focused on drug policy reform, drug regulation, and the destigmatization of addiction. 

This Organization Is On a Mission To Decriminalize Drug Addiction
Members of LEAP via Richard Juman

As marijuana slowly becomes legal across the United States, there are still many that are opposed to it, especially in law enforcement. Yet there is one organization, LEAP (which stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) that’s trying to de-stigmatize addiction and pull back the draconian laws that still exist against marijuana.

It was reported last week in LA Weekly that LEAP is backing California's Proposition 64, which would make it legal for adults in the state to own up to an ounce of marijuana, and would help regulate the marijuana business. But the California Police Chiefs Association, as well as the California District Attorneys Association, are both against Prop 64, and the issue should only get hotter this November.

As it turns out, decriminalizing marijuana is not the only battle LEAP is fighting. As Diane Goldstein, a LEAP executive board member and speaker, tells The Fix, her motivation for joining the organization was “seeing the failure of the drug war, especially around marijuana. The drug war has caused more damage and caused a lot of the issues and problems we have with over-policing, especially in areas where there’s a ton of poverty.”

LEAP first launched in 2002, and as Goldstein tells The Fix, “We focus on drug policy reform. One of the things we’re going to continue to push is treating chronic substance abuse as a public health strategy instead of criminalizing it.”

Goldstein, a former lieutenant for the City of Redondo Beach, says that LEAP currently has 5,000 criminal justice professionals in its organization, as well as 150,000 community supporters all over the world that speak out in countries as diverse as England, Germany, Canada, Costa Rica, and Brazil.

LEAP is a non-profit organization, and as Goldstein says, “We’re not doing this to make money. We have been in the trenches where we’ve seen the failures of a policy and we know there’s something better out there.”

LEAP hopes that education, and regularly speaking out, will change how society looks at addiction. “The next five years will be crucial for us as consensus builders between communities,” Goldstein says. “We have to move away from the zero tolerance/Just Say No mentality that’s very harmful.”

Like the current debate against Proposition 64, LEAP is feeling pushback from some in law enforcement because of its message, but as Goldstein adds, “We’re also starting to hear a lot of different people telling us we’re right, this is a problem, and it’s gotta change.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.