Pubdate: Wed, 14 Nov 2007
Source: Seven Days Vermont (Burlington, VT)
Column: Inside Track
Copyright: 2007 Seven Days Vermont
Author: Peter Freyne
Note: Relevant part of a longer column.
Referenced: Senators to Tackle Drug Bill
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The Progressive Party had four morning breakout sessions on its
convention agenda. One on "Agriculture." One on "Economic Development
& Tax Reform." Another on "Health Care," and a fourth on "Drug Policy
& Correcting Corrections." According to the printed agenda, the
drug-policy session was to have been moderated by Windsor County
State's Attorney Robert Sand -- someone in the news last week.

But State Chair Martha Abbott informed the delegates that State's
Attorney Sand had called her the night before and informed her he
would not be able to make it as planned.

"His life became a little complicated," said Abbott, "and he called
and said, 'I'm not gonna make it.'"

She was referring to the fact that Gov. Jim Douglas told the Vermont
State Police to send first-time marijuana-possession cases in Windsor
County to the attorney general rather than to Sand's office.

That was the gubernatorial reaction to Prosecutor Sand's recent
decision to reduce pot charges against Martha Davis, a 61-year-old
part-time family court judge. Damn Woodstock generation, eh?

Sand has bravely advocated we reexamine our current drug laws and cast
a cold eye on whether they're helping or hurting individuals and
society itself. A case can certainly be made that our drug policy
inflicts more damage and more cost than the drugs themselves.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, Davis had more than a few
joints or a couple ounces of the leafy green stuff, which, let's face
it, is a staple of modern American society. According to police, she
had 2 1/2 pounds and 32 small plants. As law-enforcement types
sympathetic to Sand's view tell us, "Those are felony amounts.
Dropping that to diversion's a stretch."

Perhaps, but it does get the public debate going, doesn't

Thank you, Gov. Scissorhands, for stepping in. And State Sen. Jeanette
White (D-Windham) jumped in as well. Sen. White says she'll introduce
a bill in January that would reduce possession of marijuana to a
civil, rather than a criminal, offense.

Hmm. Didn't a young twentysomething Republican State Rep from
Middlebury named Jim Douglas once vote in favor of just such a measure
back in the good old 1970s?

Yes, indeed. On March 17, 1978, Rep. Douglas voted for H.669, a bill
that would have decriminalized pot possession of less than an ounce.
It passed the Vermont House but died in the Vermont Senate without
reaching the floor.

Ah! The good old days.

"My view," said Democratic Senate boss Peter Shumlin to the
Brattleboro Reformer, "is that Vermont is spending extraordinary
resources prosecuting and defending cases for small amounts of
marijuana, and that is a waste of resources."

Sand may have canceled his Progressive convention appearance, but
there were Bobby Sand handouts. He is a thoughtful guy, a respected
prosecutor and a very brave man.

"The war on drugs is a war on people," writes Sand. "The time has come
to discuss a better approach to this vexing problem. I look forward to
the discussion."

Unfortunately, he didn't show up Saturday to have it.
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