Pubdate: Wed, 13 Feb 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Andrew Palmer


This morning in my paper I read this: "More than 20 speakers took a
hard look from multiple angles at Rutland's newly declared war on
drugs and violent crime during a packed-house special meeting of the
city aldermen on Thursday."

Go, Rutland! Then I turn a few pages and read this:

"The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that strips
jail time out as a possible penalty for most people arrested with
small amounts of marijuana (one ounce or less) ... This version would
ensure that an arrest does not appear on a person's criminal record --
thereby not putting in jeopardy their ability to secure public
housing, job opportunities, or financial assistance."

Am I missing something here? In my mind, it seems pretty clear that
the two issues are connected. If you look at the drug industry as a
business, it makes sense to me that you'd want to market and sell your
product where the users have a lesser chance of being penalized for
using. So when Vermont scales back prosecuting the use of marijuana,
we might as well put a sign up at our state borders reading "Pot
Dealers Welcome." Marijuana is often labeled as a gateway drug, and
there is truth to this. Chances are when dealers come up to Vermont to
sell marijuana, they're going to be carrying other drugs with them.

Furthermore I understand that the recent shooting in Rutland involved
a small transaction of $40. Now I'm not an expert in the cost of
marijuana, but I'm assuming this $40 transaction meets the requirement
of less then a ounce. Had nobody been shot, and the police had
intercepted the transaction, under this new bill the offender would
have "entered a court diversion program ... upon successful completion
would result in no criminal record."

I also quote from the article: "We need to send a clear message that
Rutland is not a place where they (drug dealers) can set up shop. We
need to stop them before they get here."

I have to be honest. It's not a very clear message. I'm confused.
Apparently, Vermont as a state is not supporting Rutland in this effort.

Rutland is talking tough, and I hear that. But then the Senate
Judiciary Committee is saying if you get caught with "small amounts of
marijuana," enter a program, give lip service, get off with no record,
try not to get caught again.

I am glad to see that two staff members representing Vermont's two
senators will be involved. We need to talk about this mixed message at
a state level also.

Andrew Palmer,

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MAP posted-by: Derek