Sheriff: Enforcement of pot laws occupying resources, time - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Sheriff: Enforcement of pot laws occupying too many resources, too much time

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Lawmakers in Uruguay have drawn worldwide attention to the small South American country after they became the first government to fully legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana.

Attention has come from the United States as American lawmakers consider new ways of combating the international drug trade.

13 News visited Lincoln County, where drugs such as methamphetamine, prescription pills and heroin have kept law enforcement busy, to speak with the sheriff who says the United States is failing in its "war on drugs," and that enforcement of marijuana laws takes time and resources away from his office's efforts to combat hard drugs.

"Heroin.  That kills," says Lincoln County Sheriff, Ken Farley. "I don't know if marijuana ever killed anyone."

A Lincoln County deputy in the 1980s, Farley says a great deal of the Sheriff's Office's resources and time went into investigating the marijuana trade.

Now the sheriff, Farley says the landscape has changed, and he recognizes a difference between marijuana and the harder drugs.

He says many members of the community agree with his view.

"About everybody I talked to in the county says 'legalize it,'" says Sheriff Farley.

We went to Gore Trailer Court, outside of West Hamlin, for interviews, since this string of trailers, sitting within a few feet of one another, was the site of a recent meth bust.

While methamphetamine has been the root cause behind violence and theft, according to Lincoln County resident, Jennifer Woodrum, she says she does not believe marijuana's effect on a community is in any way similar to that of meth.

"You see nobody getting in trouble. You see nobody killing nobody. You see nobody beating each other," says Woodrum in regard to marijuana growing, sales and use.

In this county of about 21,000 people, Sheriff Farley reports there has been about 20 meth busts in the last year.

It takes a lot of time on the part of his eight deputies to process those incidents and arrests.

He says it also takes a lot of time to process arrests relating to marijuana, because of extensive paperwork and inmate transportation to Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, nearly an hour's drive from Hamlin, the county seat of Lincoln County.

"When a deputy makes an arrest, you're talking about four hours, taking him out of service, until he processes his man," says Sheriff Farley.

Despite the setbacks, Sheriff Farley continues to strictly enforce the marijuana laws.

"If I catch him with a joint of marijuana, I'll write him a ticket," he says.

But if Sheriff Farley's deputies did not have to spend the time enforcing marijuana laws, he says it would allow them to concentrate more on the drugs that kill the most people and spur the most crime.

"I can't give you an opinion, yay or nay, on whether to legalize it," says Sheriff Farley. "But I think if they do, it will free up resources to work other... ...more important crimes than what the marijuana really is, such as meth, pills and heroin."