Former sheriff calls prohibition on drugs a farce

As a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Wisconsin sheriff Lance Buchholtz speaks at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce lunch about why drugs should be legalized. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

As a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Wisconsin sheriff Lance Buchholtz spoke at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce lunch on why drugs should be legalized. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Former Wisconsin sheriff Lance Buchholtz says the prohibition on drugs is a farce.

As a representative of a law enforcement group advocating for the legalization of drugs, he’s traveling around the state and spoke at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce event Thursday.


Buchholtz doesn’t personally condone the use of the drugs.

“I feel that no one should do drugs. Drugs are a terrible thing to do, right? Let’s all agree on that, if we could, that nobody wants drugs in our society,” he says.

But as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, a non-profit organization of current and former police officers, lawyers and judges, Buchholtz thinks we need to end the prohibition on drugs.

“It’s not working. It’s expensive. It’s costing us billions of dollars a year. We’re locking up a lot of people that are not violent offenders and we just need to find another way,” he says. 

LEAP’s solution is to legalize drugs and regulate the market. It doesn’t name specific drugs. Buchholtz says criminalizing drugs has not benefited society or kept communities safer:

“Are we keeping any of this stuff out of our communities now when it’s illegal? It’s out there. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

Buchholtz says the role of law enforcement should be to keep people safe from violence, not to intervene in drug use.

“If someone has a drug problem, it should be a medical issue, it should be a mental health issue, it should be a spiritual issue. I don’t see how it being a law enforcement issue is improving or helping anyone is this situation,” he says.

Alaska voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana in an August ballot initiative. Buchholtz thinks this kind of effort will influence federal law.

“The states are going to have to say, ‘Look, this is what we want and this is how we want to do it,’ and eventually the federal government is going to have to fall in line if enough states do what Alaska is proposing to do, and then Wisconsin does it and New York does it. Eventually, it’s going to have to happen,” he says. 

While LEAP does not support specific legislation, Buchholtz did speak to Alaska lawmakers while in Juneau.

Recently, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which includes the Tlingit and Haida Central Council, announced its opposition to legalizing marijuana.