Before retiring, Jack Cole was an undercover officer in the war against drugs.
Now, the former New Jersey state police officer heads a national group that seeks to legalize drugs.
Cole, executive director of the 1-year-old Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is bringing his message to the Valley this week, which began Saturday in Scottsdale with the Military Officers Association of America.
"There’s not a drug known to human beings that became better for being prohibited," Cole said Saturday. "If we legalize drugs, there wouldn’t be a terrorist in the world who could make a penny off it."
A group spokesman, Mike Smithson, said the group has more than 600 members, a third of which are from the criminal justice system or politics, including former New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson, U.S. District Court judges, a former head of Scotland Yard, sheriffs, border guards and narcotic officers.
Cole and Smithson say the war on drugs has failed. Crime, murders and even drug abuse would decline with legalization, Cole said, referring to results in other countries such as Switzerland. If legalized, drugs could be regulated and controlled like alcohol and tobacco, he said.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former the head of Mexico and South American operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said he was shocked and disturbed by the group’s mission.
"I do believe we should educate and rehabilitate when we can," Arpaio said. "But I believe drug abusers should go to jail. Period."
Should we legalize it?
Jack Cole, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is scheduled to speak at the following:
• 10 a.m. today — Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, 4027 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley
• Noon Monday — radio interview with KFNX (1100 AM) with Ernest Hancock.
• 7 p.m. Monday — television interview on Horizons on KAET-TV (Channel 8)
• 7 a.m. Tuesday — Scottsdale Kiwanis Club at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, 7505 E. McCormick Parkway, Scottsdale
• Noon Tuesday — Scottsdale Airpark Rotary, Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, 6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale
• 6 p.m. Tuesday — Scottsdale Lions Club, Hometown Buffet, 1312 N. Scottsdale Road