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Sand, Police Chiefs Meet On Pot Case Prosecutions

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
WHITE RIVER JCT. -- Under fire over his handling of a felony marijuana case, Windsor County's pro-legalization prosecutor met with county police chiefs to discuss how they will process similar cases in the future.

State's Attorney Robert Sand spent about 90 minutes with the chiefs Tuesday in what participants called a frank discussion about his handling of the Martha Davis case.

Sand was criticized for allowing Davis -- a lawyer and former part-time judge -- to enroll in a court diversion program after her Oct. 10 arrest on felony marijuana cultivation charges. Davis, 61, was charged after game wardens looking for a dead deer she had reported on her Windsor property allegedly found marijuana plants and 2-1/2 pounds of the drug.

In response, Gov. Jim Douglas ordered state law enforcement agencies handling "significant" marijuana cases involving first-time offenders in Windsor County to refer them to the state or federal government for prosecution, bypassing Sand.

Douglas, a Republican, said the Democratic prosecutor had abused his discretion as part of a "personal crusade" to relax drug laws.

In Tuesday's meeting, chiefs told Sand about their concerns. Most said afterward that they will send their felony marijuana cases to Sand's office for prosecution.

"I'm going to continue to work with him and if I can't come to agreement, I'm going to send the case outside his jurisdiction," said Hartford Police Chief Glenn Cutting, who said he wants to know in each case how Sand plans to proceed.

Springfield Police Chief Doug Johnston, who had said he would bypass Sand, said Tuesday he may reverse course after hearing Sand out.

"I haven't decided at this point," Johnston said. "The more open dialogue we have, the better. We can agree to disagree."

Others stood firmly behind Sand, a 10-year incumbent re-elected last year to another four-year term.

Windsor Police Chief Jim Cushing and Norwich Chief Doug Robinson said they have no qualms about sending marijuana cases to Sand.

"I'm going to put my trust in Bobby Sand, and put my cases with Bobby Sand," Cushing said. "I'm not going to try to run the office of Bobby Sand, he does it better than I could ever."

For his part, Sand says he will start seeking input from arresting officers involved in felony cases.

"I have never been good, except in the really big cases, about getting officers' input about the direction a case is heading," said Sand. "Which is absolutely not to say police would dictate an outcome, much like victims don't dictate outcomes. But their input should be involved."

He said it's important for he and other prosecutors to retain their individual discretion.

"The bottom line still needs to be that prosecutors make a decision based on what they think is right," Sand said.

He said he will continue to advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana. "I have not backed down one iota on my desire to stimulate public debate about drug policy," he said.

Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2007 Times Argus
Contact: letters@timesargus.com
Website: Times Argus Online - Vermont News, Vermont Information, Vermont Jobs
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