On the Beat in Bluffton

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Local officials don't support legalizing marijuana

The recent remarks by Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell, suggesting Indiana would be better off legalizing and taxing marijuana sales, has ignited a debate in Indiana about how it handles the drug.
Legislators and local officials involved with Wells County, however, say they’re not jumping on any bandwagon — not Whitesell’s and certainly not the one created by voters in Colorado and Washington.

In response to a News-Banner inquiry, Wells County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Lautzenheiser Sr. sent the following:

I strongly believe that legalizing or minimizing marijuana possession is a
serious mistake for the following reasons:
1. There is no doubt that marijuana is an addictive drug, and to find otherwise would be to ignore the obvious. Making marijuana more readily available would not only contribute to the ongoing addiction of current addicts but it would make addiction of many new individuals far too easy;
2. Marijuana is still going to be expensive even if legalized, and the result is going to be more and more funds diverted from families and households for drugs instead of the necessities of life;    
3. People claim that drug use and possession effect nobody but the user.  That is a highly uniformed statement.  A substantial percentage of other crimes revolve around the abuse of drugs and the need for money to buy drugs, such as Burglary, Theft, Domestic Battery, Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, and many, many other crimes. If there was not drug use and abuse in our community (or in any community) crime would be substantially less. More and easier obtainable drugs means more ancillary crimes;
4. Currently, Operating a Vehicle with Marijuana in your system is a crime. However, legalization of Marijuana would require changes to that law which may be impossible to enforce.  It would be hard to develop a system for testing the amount of your intoxication from Marijuana like we do for alcohol;
5. Marijuana is already available to juveniles on a limited basis. Making it legal to own and purchase would only increase the availability of Marijuana to juveniles.  They could more easily obtain it from their family users or slightly older friends;
6. What is next?  If we legalize Marijuana today, we open the door down the road to legalization of other drugs.  How long before we view cocaine or other controlled substances as "recreational" or "not worthy of our time to prosecute?"
7. Part of the legalizing argument is to tax the drugs to pay for the cost of other government programs. Did anyone ever stop to think of the moral implications of making an addictive drug more readily available just to raise money for the government?
8. Proponents of the legalization of Marijuana compare the drug to alcoholic beverages, which are obviously legal to possess. However, while many people abuse alcoholic beverages and that contributes substantially to our criminal caseload, the sole purpose of an alcoholic beverage is not intoxication. However, the sole purpose of Marijuana use is intoxication;
9. Finally, the best argument I can make against the legalization or minimization of Marijuana possession is that for several months synthetic marijuana was legal before the legislature closed a loophole that made it legal to possess. The synthetic Marijuana was available for purchase in stores in our community.  During that time law enforcement had its hands full with increased criminal activity, more impaired drivers on the road, and more violence and domestic batteries fueled by people high on the temporarily legal synthetic Marijuana.  In short, we have experienced a brief period of legalize Marijuana, and it did not go well for our community.

    I don't have time to draft an in depth response to your question due to my work schedule today, but I think the points reference above are ample argument against the legalization or minimization of Marijuana.  Hopefully, those in charge of legislation won't make such an egregious mistake.

Mike Lautzenheiser Sr.
Wells County Prosecuting Attorney

Learn more in the Tuesday, Dec. 4, News-Banner.

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