Pubdate: Thu, 6 Dec 2007
Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2007 Times Argus
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


WHITE RIVER JCT. -- Under fire over his handling of a felony 
marijuana case, Windsor County's pro-legalization prosecutor met with 
county police chiefs to discuss how they will process similar cases 
in the future.

State's Attorney Robert Sand spent about 90 minutes with the chiefs 
Tuesday in what participants called a frank discussion about his 
handling of the Martha Davis case.

Sand was criticized for allowing Davis -- a lawyer and former 
part-time judge -- to enroll in a court diversion program after her 
Oct. 10 arrest on felony marijuana cultivation charges. Davis, 61, 
was charged after game wardens looking for a dead deer she had 
reported on her Windsor property allegedly found marijuana plants and 
2-1/2 pounds of the drug.

In response, Gov. Jim Douglas ordered state law enforcement agencies 
handling "significant" marijuana cases involving first-time offenders 
in Windsor County to refer them to the state or federal government 
for prosecution, bypassing Sand.

Douglas, a Republican, said the Democratic prosecutor had abused his 
discretion as part of a "personal crusade" to relax drug laws.

In Tuesday's meeting, chiefs told Sand about their concerns. Most 
said afterward that they will send their felony marijuana cases to 
Sand's office for prosecution.

"I'm going to continue to work with him and if I can't come to 
agreement, I'm going to send the case outside his jurisdiction," said 
Hartford Police Chief Glenn Cutting, who said he wants to know in 
each case how Sand plans to proceed.

Springfield Police Chief Doug Johnston, who had said he would bypass 
Sand, said Tuesday he may reverse course after hearing Sand out.

"I haven't decided at this point," Johnston said. "The more open 
dialogue we have, the better. We can agree to disagree."

Others stood firmly behind Sand, a 10-year incumbent re-elected last 
year to another four-year term.

Windsor Police Chief Jim Cushing and Norwich Chief Doug Robinson said 
they have no qualms about sending marijuana cases to Sand.

"I'm going to put my trust in Bobby Sand, and put my cases with Bobby 
Sand," Cushing said. "I'm not going to try to run the office of Bobby 
Sand, he does it better than I could ever."

For his part, Sand says he will start seeking input from arresting 
officers involved in felony cases.

"I have never been good, except in the really big cases, about 
getting officers' input about the direction a case is heading," said 
Sand. "Which is absolutely not to say police would dictate an 
outcome, much like victims don't dictate outcomes. But their input 
should be involved."

He said it's important for he and other prosecutors to retain their 
individual discretion.

"The bottom line still needs to be that prosecutors make a decision 
based on what they think is right," Sand said.

He said he will continue to advocate for the decriminalization of 
marijuana. "I have not backed down one iota on my desire to stimulate 
public debate about drug policy," he said. 
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