Editorial — Can arbitrary drug safe zones make a difference?
At a meeting in mid-October, city councilors considered placing signs around Belfast's park's creating "Drug Safe Zones" — the area within 1,000 feet of the designated park — to protect areas where children tend to congregate. Several of the councilors balked at the safe zone idea, calling the 1,000-foot boundary "nuts" and the war on drugs an "abject failure." We tend to agree with them.
The Maine State Legislature passed a law in 2005 that aimed to protect children using athletic fields and parks from drug dealers. The issue of designating Belfast's parks as safe zones began in 2007 but, after initial discussions about the issue, no further action was taken by the City Council.
According to the law, if a person is found to be trafficking, furnishing or cultivating drugs within 1,000 feet of a safe zone, the charge is elevated to an aggravated offense –– the same as if the offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a school, according to the statute.
The first problem we have is the arbitrary 1,000-foot zone around the parks. This would hypothetically allow for two drug dealers selling the same drug on opposite sides of the street to be charged differently. This is not fair treatment under the law.
If we are worried about drug dealers selling to children, there is an obvious solution: have a harsher penalty when police can prove a dealer is selling to kids.
The other thing that bothers us about this law is the term "Drug Safe Zone." Isn't the entire state supposed to be a drug safe zone?
All the drugs mentioned in the law enabling these zones are already illegal, so why are we trying to make them extra illegal if they are found on the wrong side of an imaginary line?
If we want to charge drug dealers and users more harshly, it should be done fairly and equally, no matter where you are caught. To us, these "Safe Zones" seem like a lazy attempt to drum up additional charges to appear tough on drugs.
During this long, hard last stretch of the 2012 election campaigns, we have heard a lot of speculation about what will happen at the polls Nov. 6.
Often, the cable news network talking heads will start by saying something like, "If this group turns out to vote, it will go this way," or "If that group shows up in force Election Day, it may swing this way."
We hope everyone who is eligible will turn out Election Day. Don't expect someone else to vote your conscience. It is your duty as a citizen to participate to make democracy work.
Remember, too, that it was not so long ago that many in this nation could not vote or were strongly discouraged from doing so, based on their gender or the color of their skin. The right to vote unhindered was hard-won. It came after struggle and sacrifice on the part of heroic civil rights leaders.
So don't take your rights and freedoms for granted. Turn out and cast your vote. You'll be proud that you did.