Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

December 7, 2012

Local officials weigh in on drug

GOSHEN — Legalize marijuana? Not in our town.

Such was the general opinion expressed Friday by three area law enforcement officials following a recent statement by Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell indicating he would be in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana.

Whitesell’s statement, made Nov. 27 during a meeting of the State Budget Committee, referenced three main points in its support of legalization, the first being what Whitesell sees as the drug’s prevailing presence in the state over his 40 years in law enforcement despite strong and consistent attempts to curb its use. In his statement, Whitesell essentially took the stance that marijuana is here, has been here for decades, and isn’t going away anytime soon.

Whitesell also pointed to the recent voter-passed measures in Colorado and Washington that allow adults to legally possess a small amount of marijuana as indications of what he feels is a growing national shift toward support of legalization. Whitesell then referenced what appears to be a growing concern among some state legislators that valuable state prison space is being increasingly filled with non-violent, first-time marijuana offenders, leaving less room for those offenders who’ve commit serious, violent crimes.

So how do local law enforcement officials feel about the issue of legalization?

If you ask Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, Whitesell couldn’t be further off base.

“The thing about marijuana is, there’s a growing sheep mentality out there that suggests marijuana isn’t so bad, but the thing they’re missing is that marijuana is the gateway drug to just about every other drug out there,” Hill said. “There’s virtually noone doing drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine right now that didn’t first start with marijuana. So from the standpoint of stemming the tide on the so-called more dangerous drugs, the best, most effective method is keeping people off of those drugs in the first place, and that means keeping them off of marijuana.

“If you’re looking at it from the standpoint that it’s not dangerous, that’s just not true. It’s a gateway drug, clear and simple,” Hill said. “So if you start to legalize marijuana, you’re essentially saying it’s OK for your kids to use marijuana, a mind-altering substance that could ultimately create more hazards on the roadway and in the workplace.”

As for Whitesell’s comments on what he sees as a national shift toward support of legalization, Hill again said he feels Whitesell is out of touch, at least when it comes to a majority of Indiana voters.

“I’ll certainly do what I can to advocate that it not happen in Indiana,” Hill said. “I don’t support that and I don’t think we need to be heading in that direction. There are lots of solid reasons to certainly not go the way of states like Colorado and Washington, and living in the state of Indiana, I don’t believe that the vast majority of voters in Indiana would support something like this.”

Noble County Prosecutor Steven T. Clouse took a similar stance when commenting on Whitesell’s recent statement.

“I believe there is no legitimate reason to legalize marijuana,” Clouse said. “No one can show that the legalization of marijuana will make our community safer or better in any way. Marijuana is a controlled substance, and it does affect a person’s body. If someone ingests marijuana and then operates a vehicle, that’s a problem. It impairs the body in a lot of ways, and it has also been shown to be a gateway drug to other, even more dangerous drugs.”

Taking a slightly less black and white approach than Hill and Clouse in reaction to Whitesell’s comments, Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers noted that while he is not going so far as to advocate legalization of the drug, he is not above considering all options on the table in order to determine the most effective method for dealing with the drug in the future.

“Although only the superintendent can tell you what was on his mind, I believe that law enforcement, in general, is observing that the current social policy on marijuana and drugs in general, is not working,” Rogers said. “Society and law enforcement are frustrated and are looking for solutions. The drug problem is far worse than the general public knows.”

Rogers pointed to an informal survey conducted in the Elkhart County jail recently which revealed approximately 70 percent of inmates are addicted to some type of drug or alcohol.

“Is marijuana use dangerous? Yes. But so are alcoholic beverages, and yet we allow alcoholic beverages to be sold with restrictions,” Rogers said. “Alcohol kills more people than marijuana. This is a complex issue. We need to be careful of what kind of message we are sending to people when we de-criminalize marijuana and what ramifications occur as a result. There is still significant evidence that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ and people who use marijuana are likely to move on to more addicting drugs. The mere legalization of marijuana is not a panacea. There will still be issues of addiction, treatment and public safety.”

When asked whether he might be in favor of easing the penalties associated with marijuana possession, rather than outright legalization, Rogers said he personally has been a longtime advocate of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent marijuana users.

“I believe the superintendent’s statement has been a catalyst for discussion on this topic,” Rogers said. “I believe in personal liberties and that government has intruded too far into citizens’ lives. However, when public safety is involved, we need to approach this cautiously and make sure we are not creating more of a problem on the other side of legalization. I have always said that marijuana users (as opposed to dealers) should not go to jail, but rather have alternatives to incarceration. Practically, those alternatives are occurring today. I support these alternatives.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Harness Racing Crowd Harness racing a fan favorite at 4-H Fair GOSHEN — There is no question about the popularity of the three-day harness racing program at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • OBT GN0723 Cook obit photo R. Louise Cook R. Louise Cook Dec. 23, 1920-July 17, 2014 ELKHART — R. Louise Cook, 93, a lifetime resident of Elkhart, died at 5 a.m. Thursday at Miller’s Merry Manor, Wakarusa. She was born Dec. 23, 1920 in Elkhart County, three miles north of Wakarusa, to Irvin

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140723 fair senior day 02 4-H FAIR: Senior citizens enjoy day despite temps GOSHEN — It was a warm day Tuesday, but that didn’t stop hundreds of senior citizens from stopping by for a snack and a walk through the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • GN140723 fair shuffle board 02 4-H Fair: Shuffleboard tourney a source of fun GOSHEN — A little friendly banter could be heard among the shuffleboard players as they competed at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • GN140723 CR34-Ind. 13 Crash 1 LaGrange man airlifted from scene of crash A motorcyclist was seriously injured in a crash at Ind. 13 and C.R. 34 at 1:48 p.m. Tuesday. Terry Fry, 44, LaGrange, was airlifted by MedFlight from the scene. Elkhart County police said he was taken to South Bend Memorial Hospital with fractures to

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Charlotte.jpg SLIDESHOW: Pets of the Week Cats and dogs at the Humane Society of Elkhart County looking for loving, permanent homes. This month the HSEC has a Hot Dogs and Cool Cats special. Adopt in July and receive 25 percent off your adoption fee for dogs and cats under 5 years old or 50 percent off those 5-years-old or better.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140723 Sanders fair faces FAIR FACES: Austin Sanders enjoys success, versatility as 10-year 4-Her

    It’s tough to say in which Elkhart County 4-H Fair livestock barn you’re most likely to find 10-year 4-H member Austin Sanders.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Goshen City Hall GOSHEN BOARD OF WORKS: Gravel lot approved for Forest River

    GOSHEN — The employee parking areas for a new manufacturing facility within the Century Drive Industrial Park on Goshen’s south side will be allowed to remain unpaved, though that doesn’t mean the city has to like it.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140722 fair food drive 03 Fair's food drive falls short of world record, but is still a success

    For a 24-hour period, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair “All IN” food drive committee attempted a “Guinness Book of World Records” for the largest single-day food drive. Their goal: 560,000 pounds of food collected from 1 p.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday.

    July 21, 2014 5 Photos

  • GN140722 fair special needs awareness 02 Many enjoy Disabilities Awareness Day at the fair

    Barry Malone stepped off the Orient Express roller coaster ride, grinning. “That I was fun. I liked that,” Malone said with a laugh. “That was a good ride, too.” Malone attended the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Monday and participated in the Disabilities Awareness Day activities and events at Heritage Park, just inside the main gate.

    July 21, 2014 4 Photos

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Last weekend (July 12) the Goshen Parks Department held its Kid’s Try-athlon to promote childhood fitness and this week (July 18) the new bicycle trail is open to the fairgrounds in Goshen, offering residents a healthy way to get to the annual agriculture exposition. Have you joined the local fitness movement?

Yes, I work at eating healthy and exercising
No, I am happy with my fitness level
Changing my diet and exercise frequency is a work in progress
     View Results
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment