Pubdate: Wed, 14 Nov 2007
Source: County Courier (Enosburg Falls, VT)
Copyright: 2007 County Courier
Author: Hal Bill
Note: Robert L. Sand is Windsor County state's attorney. His column 
is reprinted here by permission. Hal Bill lives in Enosburg Falls. 
His column appears bi-weekly in the County Courier.
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Last week Gov. Douglas demonstrated he would rather grab a sound byte 
than enter into discussion to change failed policy.

The war on drugs is failed policy. Windsor County State's Attorney 
Robert L. Sand is trying to start a dialogue to deal with this failed 
policy. In response to Sand's efforts, Gov. Douglas ordered law 
enforcement officers to send Windsor County drug cases to Bill 
Sorrell, Attorney General for the State of Vermont, instead of to Sand.

To give a sense of the dialogue Mr. Sand wants to start, I give up my 
column to his op-ed piece, originally printed in January and February 
2007 in the Rutland Herald, the Barre Times Argus, and the Valley 
News of White River Junction.

Here is Sand's piece in its entirety. It's well worth reading:

"The time has come for peace talks in the war on drugs.

It's not time to cut and run or to declare victory and head home. Nor 
is it time to encourage or tolerate violations of existing law. 
Instead, it's time to devise an intelligent exit strategy, one that 
includes consideration of a regulated public health approach to 
drugs, instead of our current criminal justice model.

As a career prosecutor, I see strong indications that our enforcement 
model may actually be counterproductive to public and personal 
safety. Violence spawned by the war on drugs continues to plague our 
communities. Violence exists in the form of assaults and murder by 
drug sellers as a result of deals gone awry or territorial disputes. 
We see violence in the form of robberies and burglaries by users 
stealing money or guns to purchase or trade for drugs. And, to a much 
lesser extent, we see random violence caused by drug-impaired people 
unwilling or unable to control their behavior.

Drug policy reform, to include regulated access to drugs, could 
substantially reduce all three types of drug crimes.

Any inquiry into drug policy must answer five critical questions:

If we are serious about addressing substance abuse, why do we treat 
addicts as criminals?

Given the addictive and dangerous nature of certain drugs, why do we 
allow criminals to control their distribution - criminals with a 
financial interest in finding new customers and keeping others addicted?

Why (do many) reject a regulatory approach to drugs, yet we regulate 
alcohol and tobacco, two highly addictive and dangerous substances?

If a regulatory approach would increase health care costs, would 
those costs be more than offset by savings in the criminal justice system?

If our current approach is working, why have drug use, potency, 
arrest, and incarceration rates increased and not decreased as 
enforcement expenditures have gone up?

What about young people and access to drugs? Would a regulatory 
approach result in an increase in use by those most susceptible to 
the damaging effects of drugs? Maybe, but not necessarily so. Many 
adolescents will tell you it is easier to get marijuana than it is to 
get alcohol. This suggests a regulatory approach might contain drug 
use by minors.

Moreover, if we intelligently reallocated criminal justice dollars 
into education and drug prevention, we might minimize the allure of 
these "forbidden fruits" and not see an escalation in drug use.

Drug policy reform should appeal to a broad political spectrum.

Reform would allow us to treat addicts more compassionately and 
effectively. It would remove government from the private choices of 
adults. And it could result in substantial savings by reducing 
criminal justice and correctional expenditures. To suggest that 
proposing reform is tantamount to "being soft on drugs" is to reduce 
a highly complex issue into a one-dimensional catch phrase.We can, 
and must, be more thoughtful than that.

There are no easy answers in the drug policy debate. And certainly 
there are more questions to be asked than those raised above. But we 
must ask the questions. And we must ask them not only of our state 
elected officials and policy makers, but also of our congressional 
delegation. The drug problem is both a state and federal issue.

With the recent elections, Vermont now has substantial power in the 
Congress - power that can bring resources to the state, but also 
power that can influence change.

Even if Vermonters sought a bold and courageous new approach to drug 
policy, the federal government might seek to stifle innovation. The 
states and the federal government must try to work in partnership on 
these issues.

The war on drugs is a war on people. The time has come to discuss a 
better approach to this vexing problem.

I look forward to the discussion."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake