To the editor: Murders, knifings, criminal gangs, police raids: it all sounds like Chicago in the 1920s, but it’s actually Bennington County in recent months.
Almost daily the local papers carry news of another police raid or drug arrest, many linked to Massachusetts based criminal gangs.
Vermont is a target for drug activity: when there are people who are addicted to controlled substances they will work with criminals to get their needs fulfilled.
As prohibition 100 years ago demonstrated, and drug laws demonstrate today, selling illegal substances is a business opportunity for criminals.
Forward looking mental and medical health professionals recognize that the “war on drugs” has been an abject failure. It uses our tax resources and law enforcement time in an unending task of rooting out criminals. But, none of this does anything to address the impact of drug misuse on individuals and families. The overdose deaths of those addicted to opioids is a case in point.
It will take major changes; but it’s time we tried “harm reduction” strategies that focus on the needs of the addicted rather than the criminal pipeline. What if addicted persons could legally obtain (with medical counseling) the drugs to which they are physically addicted? We do it with alcohol and marijuana, why not other drugs.
It is time to take the money being used by law enforcement agencies, the court system, and correctional facilities, and funnel it into a proactive approach that takes the financial incentives out of feeding the addictions of people who have real mental health and medical needs.
Charles R. Putney
Bennington, Sept. 17