Just say nope to dope

POST STAR EDITORIAL Sunday Sept 29, 2013: Supervisor is right in arguing federal grant money should be used in other drug fights.

Dana Haff, Hartford’s supervisor, looked askance last week at a $10,000 federal grant targeted at fighting marijuana growth, sale and use in Washington County.

We join him in questioning federal priorities in handing out $10,000 to fight pot smoking in a region in which heroin use is expanding.

Like Haff, we have a hard time understanding the purpose of spending public money on a losing effort to restrict the use of perhaps the most benign recreational drug in the country.

Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana. Other states, like New York, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot, and some states have legalized it for medical use. There is widespread public recognition that, while not harmless, marijuana is a mild drug.

Compare the effects of pot use with the effects of alcohol, which has destroyed millions of families. Every day, innocent victims are abused and neglected by alcoholics and killed or scarred in car crashes caused by drunken drivers.

Compare the effects of pot use, as Haff was, with the effects of other illegal drugs, such as heroin. Police link heroin addiction to criminal activity, as junkies turn to crime to support their habits.

It’s rare to hear an officer say a criminal was stealing so she could buy pot.

It’s rare to hear about a fistfight in which the brawlers were high on marijuana.

“We really need to take a look at cannabis laws — federal, state and local. We could legalize it, regulate it and tax it — especially for industrial hemp,” Haff said at a recent county meeting.

We don’t advocate smoking pot. But we think Haff should be listened to on this subject, because some of the worst consequences of the marijuana trade result from its prohibition.

The bloody carnage along the Mexican border, as drug gangs fight for supremacy, could be at least partly relieved by the legalization of marijuana.

Haff is right, too, that legalization would be a bonanza for government entities that could tax marijuana sales.

He is also correct in saying hemp has industrial and commercial potential that has been obstructed by laws against marijuana cultivation.

But Haff’s best point is that money being spent on marijuana eradication efforts could be better spent fighting the proliferation of more destructive drugs.

In the past week, local police have made a succession of arrests of suspects who, officers said, were carrying a variety of heroin, cocaine and cash as they traveled through the area toward Vermont.

The Rutland area has become notorious in recent years as a hub of drug activity, particularly for heroin. So many women have been arrested on drug charges in our area that the number of female inmates has surpassed Washington County Jail’s 25-woman capacity.

Boarding prisoners to other jails is expensive, but that may be the least costly effect of the use and abuse of drugs like heroin. The toll these drugs take on individuals, families and communities — in lost productivity, health care, counseling, broken families, crime and death — is incalculable.

Haff is right. Hard drugs are the priority, and any federal money flowing to local counties should be dedicated to fighting their proliferation.

It’s as if tigers were roaming our streets and the federal government was sending us checks for skunk eradication.

We need to fight the threats from drugs such as cocaine and heroin that can hurt and kill and stop using police time and public dollars on a futile and unnecessary campaign against marijuana.

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Vincent Palacino.