Legalize drugs? That would be wrong way to go
Appeal police reporter F.T. Norton’s powerful two-part series on Carson City’s methamphetamine epidemic focused public attention on an issue that had been hidden for far too long in our town. And it should cause us to look very carefully at proposals to legalize dangerous drugs in the Silver State.
“(Meth) is the most frequently encountered drug in Nevada,” Norton wrote, “and although meth use is working its way across the United States, it’s easily been the drug of choice in Carson City for at least 20 years.”
She cited moving personal examples of how drugs have impacted the well-known families of Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong and Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, of Douglas County. Both of their twenty-something daughters have been fighting meth addictions for several years, and are finally showing signs of kicking their drug habits, for which they should be commended.
“I was smoking it (meth), eating it and snorting it,” said Furlong’s 25-year-old daughter, Kendra. “I quit my job with the state, my home was being foreclosed on, my mother took my kids – and instead of asking anyone for help, I closed everyone out except the people feeding my habit.” I admire her courage in speaking out in our local newspaper.
For his part, Assemblyman Hettrick acknowledged that “it (meth) doesn’t care about your status in life. It doesn’t care about anything. It’s everywhere and it doesn’t miss anyone.” Presumably, he’ll be leading the fight against further drug legalization in our state. I say “further” because Nevada voters approved so-called medical marijuana a few years ago on the dubious theory that anything the federal government opposes must be good for us. But the truth is that marijuana isn’t medicine; it’s a noxious weed and that’s why medical marijuana is regulated by the State Agriculture Department rather than the Pharmacy Board.
During an April 13 public meeting organized by Sheriff Furlong, Mayor Marv Teixeira and District Attorney Noel Waters, Detective Sgt. Mitch Pier of the Tri-Net Narcotics Task Force said that Carson City is a “major hub” for drug traffickers because of its central location at the intersection of highways 50 and 395 and proximity to Reno and Lake Tahoe.
“We’re seeing that a majority of the time we investigate outside the county, we’re ending up in Carson City,” Pier told an audience of civic leaders and interested citizens.
“With so much meth lying around, it’s no surprise that a majority of the crimes committed in Carson City can be tied back to methamphetamine use,” said DA Waters. He, Sheriff Furlong and Tri-Net officers vowed to crack down on drug traffickers. Shortly after taking office, Mayor Marv identified meth trafficking and abuse as the No. 1 law enforcement priority in Carson City, and I heartily to endorse his vigorous efforts to raise public awareness on this issue.
After the April 13 meeting the conservative Burke Consortium issued the following statement in support of the anti-drug campaign: “We applaud our city officials for their honesty and transparency on this issue (and) remain optimistic that our city officials have (finally) started to take the necessary steps to control this problem.” Well said! The Consortium also asserted that most local meth is produced by violent Mexican (and Central American) gangs operating in Mexico and Southern California, which “monopolize the large-scale meth trade here in Nevada.” That observation coincides with what I’ve been writing about – a dramatic increase in illegal immigration, drug trafficking and other criminal activity along the porous U.S.ÐMexico border.
All of this leads me to reiterate my strong opposition to drug legalization, which would inevitably lead to the ready availability of marijuana and more dangerous drugs. After the 2005 state Legislature declined to consider a proposal by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, the MPP announced its intention to put a misleading initiative measure on next year’s statewide ballot. This is virtually the same measure that Nevada voters defeated by a 60-40 margin a couple of years ago.
During legislative hearings on the MPP proposal, Nevada law enforcement officials spoke out against it on grounds that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that frequently leads to more severe addictions. “Marijuana will not be legalized on my watch,” declared Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, a Henderson police official who plans to run for governor next year. I wholeheartedly agree with Perkins on this high-priority law enforcement issue.
Kevin Quint, executive director of the private Join Together Northern Nevada substance abuse coalition, argued effectively against drug legalization last month in a Reno Gazette-Journal op-ed piece. “Making marijuana a legal substance offers no benefits to Nevada citizens,” he wrote, and added that legalization would only lead to more drug use, increased demand for publicly-funded drug treatment facilities and a much larger prison population. He also noted that most first-time marijuana users are under the age of 18 and are much more likely to “graduate” to hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and/or meth.
As the Burke Consortium wisely noted, “The meth epidemic poses a whole new set of challenges and dangers for law enforcement, first responders, prosecutors, public health officials and child welfare agencies.” Let’s join together in support of their efforts to rid our community of meth and other dangerous drugs with particular attention to the traffickers who prey upon our children and other vulnerable segments of society.
n Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, worked on anti-drug programs overseas for more than 20 years.