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Sheriff, chiefs respond to DA support of legalized marijuana

The decision to potentially legalize adult use or recreational marijuana continues to be a hot button topic.

That’s unlikely to change as states across the country grapple with the decision.

Here in Warren County, District Attorney Rob Greene — the county’s chief law enforcement officer — has come out in support of legalization.

But that’s by no means a unanimous position in the county’s law enforcement community.

Sheriff Brian Zeybel, Conewango Township Police Chief Jason Peters and Youngsville Borough Police Chief Todd Mineweaser approached the Times Observer to express their opposition.

“I seem to have more questions than answers,” Zeybel said, asking why meth and heroin addicts are switching to marijuana now. “Why do they have to wait for it to be legal to get off hard drugs?”

He also challenged the DA’s explanation for why marijuana arrests are on the decline

“Is it true that law enforcement ‘doesn’t want’ to make arrests for marijuana, knowing that legalization is ‘inevitable?’ Or is it true law enforcement doesn’t want to waste their time doing paperwork for an arrest that will unequivocally be dismissed by a prosecutorial decision?”

One argument in support of legalization is that it would result in a regulated industry — users would know what is in the marijuana they purchase.

“Are the illegal suppliers of the kids and adults — supplying cheaper and possibly unsafe product — going out of business with legalization? If this was true, the 18 legalized states would have no illegal weed in their towns,” Zeybel argued. “Do you think this is the case?”

Zeybel said supporters of legislation “always downplay the use of marijuana to ‘Cheech and Chong’ references…. Everyone is just happy and harmless sitting eating ‘Cheetos’ and playing video games.

“Do these people drive home from their buddy’s house after getting that high? They mention it in this fashion because they want to soften this stigma; rather than speaking about fatal car crashes from driving while under the influence of marijuana; or the family turmoil brought on by fighting a lifetime of addiction.”

Zeynel said it’s his role to “play it safe — safe for the community that I was elected to protect.

“I’m against recreational legalization.”

Peters said he’s a “‘Holy Roller,’ husband, father, brother, son and a police officer for the last 27 years” and detailed that he has “never seen a situation where legalizing marijuana would have made things better.

“All Officers of Conewango Township are against legalizing marijuana and I know this because I asked each and every one of them,” Peters added. “The future is scary enough for my son and your children and legalizing marijuana will not make it better. Do your own research and see how communities that have legalized marijuana are doing.”

Mineweaser detailed that their role is to put others first.

“Our job is to protect the weak, young, elderly, less informed and most vulnerable from evildoers,” he explained, “We all take an oath to uphold the state and local laws with the highest degree of integrity. As a police officer our characters are being judged on a daily basis and this is why our hiring process is very intense and thorough. We look for the best candidates with great morals and character.”

He said he’s been in law enforcement for over 25 years and “heard and seen” many “unfortunate and preventable events” associated with drug and alcohol use.

“When I know something is not good for our communities, our youth and well-being, I attempt to educate people of what I have seen firsthand,” Mineweaser said. “With that said, I know legalization of marijuana is not going to make our communities better or safer. I have heard from Representatives from other states that have legalized this drug and they are telling me the laundry list of problems associated with legalization. Those states believed big tax money would bail them out and solve all their problems. This did not happen. They are basically funding the problems the legalization has created.”

He stressed that his agency and officers are “100 percent against legalization of marijuana.

“People need to start getting educated on the overall global effects of legalizing marijuana…. People need hope and a purpose in life. Not another drug being pushed on them.”

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