Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 10, 2012


Chief feels legalizing marijuana opens Pandora's Box

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “Marijuana is not addictive. I’ve been using it for years.”

That’s a paradox of cannabis. The plant has been recognized since 3,000 BC and has at least 30 nicknames — some nice, some rough. It’s weed and pot, Mary Jane and roach. Some call it “skunk” and its odor is evident as soon as a cop opens the car door.

There are a lot of arrests for possession of marijuana in Lockport, but the culprits are usually caught after some other violation. Violators normally don’t go to jail, but get an ACD, acquittal in contemplation of dismissal. If the user behaves, the charges are dismissed.

The State of Washington legalized marijuana this week. Colorado will follow. Will other states be far behind?

Bud Grinder (not his real name) wants Lockport users to rally to make pot legal in New York state. He opened a “Legalize It Lockport” Facebook page this week and his page counted nearly 50 “likes.”

Grinder’s been a marijuana user for three years and insists it’s not addictive and it’s not a gateway drug to hard drugs.

Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert has seen evidence marijuana is addictive and a gateway drug. “I’ve seen it a lot, where people start with marijuana and when that doesn’t give them the high or low or what they’re looking for, they move up. There are enough to show that when you start with it, you move up. You graduate to more potent drugs, prescription drugs or heroin.”

The chief also recalled a young man who was caught stealing from his place of employment. The man confessed he was addicted to marijuana. He couldn’t stop.

Eggert understands that marijuana is not as harmful or addictive as crack or heroine. He cautioned, “By legalizing it, do you want to take the chance that one of 10 smokers will use it as a gateway to more powerful drugs?”

Grinder said that marijuana helped him get over a very difficult period in his life. Weed made him calmer and let him be focused. Pot users are not likely to the trouble makers, but go off to themselves. The don’t make irrational decisions. he said.

“A man once told me to follow my dream, my dream is to make a difference in something I enjoy!” Grinder argued on his page. “Marijuana is not only for the people’s benefit but also for the government!”

Eggert recognized the arguments for and against legalizing marijuana. But, if legalizing marijuana solves one problem, it opens the hole for more problems, he said.

The chief likened it to the game Whack-A-Mole. Whack one mole and another one pops up.

“If it lessens work load, it’s going to create more problems — over here or over there,” he said. “It’s not really lessening my work load.”

He also noted that smoking pot could also cause long-term health issues. Smoking damages lungs.

“You cant make nature illegal, so why keep marijuana illegal?” Grinder argues on his page. “I can only do so much to help in the fight to legalize marijuana. As the free people of the United States you also need too do your part to get the word out about this campaign! Share this with your friends too spread the word. The more likes we get, the sooner the rally will take place!” 

Sheriff James Voutour, who declined to be interviewed for this story, emphasized that his department doesn’t make the laws. It enforces the laws.

That’s the company line. “We enforce the laws that are written by the state,” Eggert said. “Whatever laws that come, or don’t come down, determine our enforcement initiative.”

It was argued that half of the inmates at the Niagara County Jail are there because they broke the marijuana laws.

“I don’t remember the last person sent to jail for marijuana,” Eggert said. “I would bet most of the people who are in there smoke marijuana. A lot who may have been arrested had marijuana in possession, but we don’t send somebody to jail for smoking marijuana. A lot of times, marijuana isn’t the only charge.”

In a sense the state has decriminalized marijuana possession, but still kept the stigma of illegal by making it a violation, Eggert explained.

“If it’s illegal, it draws a line for kids. It gives them a reason not to use it. If illegal, as a parent, I can tell my kids not to use it.,” Eggert said. “There are a lot of arguments. All I have to do as a parent, say don’t use it because it’s illegal.”

Possession of less than 25 grams is not a misdemeanor crime. It is a violation.

“They’ve reduced it by a certain degree, but you still have that line,” the chief said. 

Growers have increased ability to better cultivated marijuana and have increased potency. It’s a lot higher now, more powerful.

If legalized, Eggert is concerned about progression. “Our society could become a whole bunch of drup users,” he said. “It’s a stretch to go from legalizing marijuana to collapsing society, but the progression is there. Why don’t we just tax cocaine, too. It’s a Pandora’s box, once you open it a little, how far are you going to let it go before you shut it again? 

They shouldn’t legalize takes away the last hurdle.”