Pubdate: Sat, 17 Feb 2007
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2007 Rutland Herald
Author: Louis Porter
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand dismissed Gov. James
Douglas' claim that he kept his constituents in the dark about his
beliefs on marijuana.

Sand said he wrote two op-ed pieces in 2005 and 2006, well in advance
of the November 2006 elections, outlining his concerns about the
state's war on drugs and calling for a "public health approach" to
marijuana and other drugs.

At his weekly news conference Thursday, Douglas asserted that Sand
hadn't let voters know about his controversial stance. And, the
governor questioned whether the veteran prosecutor would enforce the
state's drug laws.

"The voters of Windsor County had a right to know about this before he
was re-elected instead of immediately afterwards," Douglas said. "I
hope and assume he will be true to his oath of office."

Sand, who has been Windsor County's top law enforcement officer for
the past 11 years, and has spent most of his legal career as a Vermont
prosecutor, said the governor didn't have his facts straight.

Sand said he wrote the op-ed pieces to let people know his

"I didn't want to be elected under false pretenses," he

Sand, a Democrat, ran unopposed on both the Democratic and Republican
tickets in 2002 and 2006.

Sand said that while he wrote the two op-ed pieces in the Rutland
Herald in August 2006, and in the Lebanon, N.H., Valley News in 2005,
his views on the need for a dialogue on drug enforcement didn't gain
significant attention until a news story ran in the Herald in late
November 2006.

Since then, he said, he has received national and international

Earlier this week, Sand expanded on his views at a forum sponsored by
the Windsor County Democrats. He said he favored the decriminalization
of marijuana, saying no one had convinced him marijuana shouldn't be
legal and unregulated for adults.

"I don't think the police, prosecutors, courts and corrections should
be involved with marijuana," he said.

He said that despite his views the state should review its drug
policies, he said he would fully enforce the state's drug laws and
follow his oath of office.

Sand, 48, said that as a high school and college student he used
marijuana, but that he hadn't used it since 1982, although he said he
might have smoked once at a party during law school.

Sand, who came to Vermont to attend Vermont Law School, where he
graduated in 1987, said he didn't like marijuana, and he used it
because of the social scene.

"It made me kind of paranoid and more reserved than I already am,"
Sand said. "I'm not proud of it; I'm not ashamed of it."

Sand said he had been expecting to be asked whether he smoked
marijuana ever since he raised the issue about the war on drugs, and
he was surprised it hadn't been raised earlier.

He said his only hope was that the issue didn't distract from his goal
of in-depth discussion of the state's drug laws, particularly in
regards to marijuana.

He said he believed adults should be able to use marijuana legally,
but that it should be illegal for people younger than 18. Adults
giving or selling marijuana to children should be prosecuted, he said.

He said the argument made by some law enforcement officials that
little time and government resources are spent on marijuana
enforcement isn't true, citing a recent study by the Vermont Crime
Information Center.

During the past two years, he said, there were more marijuana arrests
than all other illegal drug cases combined.

"Let's take marijuana out of the criminal justice system and
reallocate the money to prevention, treatment and education. My
prediction is that use would decline," Sand said.

Sand said he favors more of a public health approach to the use of
other drugs, noting that doctors in Great Britain can prescribe heroin.

Jason Gibbs, the governor's chief spokesman, didn't return messages
left for him at the governor's office.

State's attorneys are elected independently of any state official,
with the voters having the final say. Sand said Douglas has not called
him about the issue.

"I think in the heat of the moment on an emotional and complicated
issue, I think the governor made a mistake. Let's move on," he said.

Sand said he has received lots of support on the issue.

"Almost to a person, people have said, 'let's have the discussion,'"
he said. "It's abundantly clear that the current approach is not working."

The prosecutor said his experience was proof that experimental use of
marijuana did not automatically lead to addiction or other drug use.

"I don't use drugs. I don't like drugs. This is a public health
issue," he said.

Reporter Louis Porter contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin