Pubdate: Sun, 25 Feb 2007
Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2007 Times Argus
Author: Sue Allen, Times Argus Editor
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


BARRE - Mayor Thomas Lauzon on Saturday said he hoped the Legislature 
would consider imposing the death penalty on convicted crack and 
heroin dealers, and to legalize marijuana.

Failing that, the mayor said, he would call for a public forum in 
Barre to kick off a statewide discussion about the growing drug 
problem in Vermont and steps - including the death penalty and 
legalization - to control the situation.

"I'm sure everyone will distance themselves from me," Lauzon said 
Saturday night of his death-penalty call. "But if anyone tells you 
we're winning the war on drugs, they're lying."

Lauzon was quoted in The Times Argus' Saturday edition saying, 
"People who are dealing crack and dealing heroin have zero social 
value and should be put to death."

Saturday night he reiterated that belief.

"What social value do they have? They are dealing crack and heroin to 
young people, knowing full well what the effects will be," the mayor 
said. "What purpose do they serve in society other than to destroy 
lives, to destroy families?"

He went on to say that by legalizing marijuana, fees on the 
production and sale could be used for drug prevention and treatment 
efforts to get at the core problem - drug usage in Vermont.

Lauzon acknowledged that his views would be controversial, but he 
said the state needs to confront the fact that Vermont is losing the 
war on drugs.

Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary 
Committee, said he understood Lauzon's frustration with the growing 
drug problem. But Sears stopped short of supporting the mayor's call 
for the death penalty or the legalization of marijuana.

"I think the man is very frustrated, and I understand his 
frustration," Sears said. "The problem in my view is we've ignored 
this problem until it's out of hand."

Sears said legalizing a drug would put Vermont at odds with federal 
law, creating more problems than it solved.

"Secondly, if we were to have a discussion about the death penalty - 
and that's a big if - I think it would be about a different 
population," the senator added.

Jason Gibbs, spokesman for Gov. James Douglas, said he had not 
discussed the issue of imposing the death penalty on crack and heroin 
dealers with the governor. But, he added, Douglas would oppose 
legalization of marijuana. "He's not unalterably opposed to the death 
penalty, but he doesn't have any plans to introduce it. There are 
some circumstances he would support a death penalty, but I'm not sure 
this is among them," Gibbs said. "Marijuana is a gateway drug for 
some folks, so he would not support legalization." Gibbs was 
referring to the view of some that marijuana is a "gateway drug" 
because it is the first step toward more serious drug usage and addictions.

"The governor certainly has no appreciation or respect for anyone who 
seeks to poison another individual for profit," Gibbs added.

He said Douglas does support a registry for those convicted of 
dealing hard-core drugs, such as crack and heroin. "That's a measure 
he would certainly support."

Lauzon said he had spoken with some lawmakers about the possibility 
of introducing legislation to legalize marijuana and impose the death 
penalty on serious dealers.

Their response was somewhat cool, he said. "They listen politely. I 
would like to have a statewide conversation. The conversation I'd 
like to start with is 'How are we doing?' Are we happy with our 
progress in the war on drugs? What are we doing in Vermont with 
regard to the war on drugs?" Lauzon said. "Maybe we start in Barre."

Although the call for a drug-related death penalty is unusual, this 
is not the first time during this legislative session that a call for 
legalization of marijuana has been publicly discussed.

Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand put forward the idea in a 
recent opinion piece in The Times Argus and Rutland Herald, calling 
for the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana use. Sand's 
proposal drew criticism from Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Kerry 
Sleeper. The focus on Vermont's rising drug problem has intensified 
in recent weeks, however, with federal, state and local law 
enforcement on Tuesday joining forces to crack down on a rash of 
armed robberies, home invasions and personal assaults they believe 
are linked to illegal drug activity in the state.

Lauzon said he would call for a public forum on the subject in late April.

He acknowledged that his call for the death penalty sounded harsh, 
but said he had attended the funeral of a young person who died as a 
result of a drug overdose.

"When you go to a service and look at the parents of a young man . 
who just lost a son . it's not good. It's not good," he said. These 
dealers are murderers, he added. "If you put a gun to someone's head, 
it's murder. How is this so different?"
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman