Pubdate: Mon, 18 Feb 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald


The debate on the state's marijuana laws and the  Rutland City debate
on police overtime are essentially  the same. In both cases, the
debate is over what the  best use of limited police resources and how
the state  should be wielding its power.

At the state level, the discussion was triggered  largely by the
decision of Windsor County Attorney  Bobby Sands to send a case
involving a judge growing  and possessing marijuana to diversion.

The eventual upshot is the state Senate passing a bill
decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of  marijuana. That still
needs to pass the House and the  governor's desk to become law, but
it's a sound,  common-sense measure.

Opponents say it will result in marijuana users moving  on to harder
drugs, but study after study show that's  not the case. The most
significant health issue  identified in clinical studies of marijuana
is that it  is most often ingested by smoking.

Opponents also argue it will turn Vermont into a haven  for potheads,
which ignores the fact that a dozen other  states have similar laws,
including Maine and New York,  where possession of up to an ounce is a
civil  violation, punishable by a small fine. Even such  conservative
bastions as North Carolina and Ohio are  doing just fine with
decriminalization, so it really  isn't the end of the world.

What it is, is the end of random and arbitrary  "justice" which sees
some pot smokers (Bill Clinton,  George W. Bush) become president and
others go to jail.

The Senate is merely reminding the police and courts  that they have
more pressing issues than busting  college kids -- or, for that
matter, grandmothers or  college presidents -- for having a couple of
joints on  them.

It's the same discussion the city needs to have as it  deals with the
recent outbreak of drug-related  violence. The first response from
police Chief Anthony  Bossi -- seconded quickly by Alderwoman Karen
Bossi --  was that the department needs more overtime money. But  it's
up to the city to make sure the resources of the  department are being
spent where the residents want  them spent before just handing over
more money.

The taxpayers, who regularly see uniformed officers  enforcing speed
limits, including construction speed  limits, or doing traffic control
at, say, Art in the  Park, have the right to a voice in deciding
whether  that's the best use of trained, professional police
officers, or whether those duties should be delegated  to private
companies or even trained volunteers.

After all, the police are proposing to train private  citizens to do
drug patrols on our streets. It doesn't  seem like too much of a
stretch to imagine them  delegating stopping cars at a crosswalk, or
sitting at  a construction site as a reminder that drivers need to
slow down for highway workers, freeing up the full-time  officers to
concentrate on the crack houses and heroin  dealers.
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MAP posted-by: Derek