Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

As candidates are gearing up for this November’s contest to replace Sheriff Bob Braudis, one bit of “wisdom” keeps emerging.

It is usually applied to enforcing laws against drug use and it goes like this: “The sheriff can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce. The law is the law. No matter what you think of it.”

And that, of course, is complete, utter nonsense.

Picking and choosing which laws to enforce is one of the sheriff’s most important duties. (A duty that he must carry out in coordination and cooperation with the community.)

Let’s get real: We live in a society with so many laws that it is just about impossible to get through the day without violating at least a few of them.

We are all entangled in an impossible net of laws enacted over the centuries for a host of reasons – good intentions run amok, evil prejudice enshrined in law, sheer stupidity on the rampage.

Take, for example, jaywalking. It is generally against the law – but everybody does it. We cross in the middle of the block. We cross against the light. We do it because we’re in a hurry or because … well, just because we feel like it.

And for the most part, that egregious violation of the law is ignored by the authorities. Imagine the uproar if the Aspen police were to start rigorous enforcement of the jaywalking statutes.

And yet, there is no question that jaywalking is far more dangerous than smoking marijuana. Hundreds of jaywalkers die every year in this country.

Do we need to declare a War on Jaywalking?

No, we don’t.

In fact, just like the War on Drugs, a War on Jaywalking would probably do more harm than good.

You can, if you are so inclined, argue all day on the merits and demerits of legalizing marijuana versus legalizing jaywalking. You can. I’ll skip that all-day debate, if you don’t mind. The ranting gives me a headache.

Skipping the argument, the point is, we can’t (and more importantly, won’t) obey every law that’s on the books. We all make our own internal moral decisions about where to draw the line. I’m not talking about rape, robbery and murder. I’m talking about the trivial stuff.

What’s your favorite, dirty little secret misdemeanor? Do you leave your car idling in a loading zone while you run in to buy a six-pack? Did you fail to re-register your car and get Colorado plates, even though you’ve been living here for more than 30 days?

Do you drive 27 miles an hour on Main Street? Maybe even 30? I bet you do. Criminal! Scum!

Years ago, the Aspen police cracked down on Main Street speeders – handing out tickets to people for going 26 or 27 miles an hour.

“The speed limit’s 25,” they said. “We’re just enforcing the law.”

That didn’t last long.

There were letters to the editor. There were bitter protests in traffic court. I believe even the Chamber of Commerce was outraged. The people made their will known and the police backed down.

Those are the decisions that a community makes for itself.

So, all you would-be lawmen, don’t give me this nonsense of “Ho-di-doh, I’m just enforcing the law.”

Don’t go pretending it’s not a decision you are choosing to make. Stand right up and say that if it’s up to you, this is the law you think needs enforcement. And then give us some good reasons why.

And, of course, tell us very clearly how you’re going to pay for that shift in enforcement emphasis. And since budgets will only stretch so far, tell us what law enforcement efforts will get cut to pay for your new crackdown. Are we going to be overwhelmed with a plague of jaywalkers when lawmen turn their attention to other evils?

And, yes, I am talking here specifically about marijuana.

So please don’t go pretending that you couldn’t draw a line between smoking a little dope and dealing meth. It’s the difference between jaywalking and snatching an infant out of a passing stroller and throwing the child into the middle of Main Street traffic during rush hour.

No one would have any problem deciding that one of those violations is trivial and one is evil. So, you candidates for sheriff, you will have to make moral choices. Stand up and make them loud and clear.

And, while we’re at it, don’t tell me that marijuana is a “gateway drug.”

I said you have to give us good arguments, good reasons and that one is just so fatuously lame that it needs to be shot and put out of its misery. Like any other lame dumb ox.

Almost every heroin addict got started in pleasurable gobbling with the addictive taste of mother’s milk.

Is mother’s milk a “gateway drug”? Are breast pumps drug paraphernalia?

People who become addicts are people who will try anything that’ll get them high. Sure they’ll try marijuana. And alcohol. And … what else have you got? Prescription drugs out of their parents’ medicine chest? Glue? PCP? Poppers? A little of this and a little of that until they finally – and often gleefully – find the one that will destroy them. And then they settle down and focus on getting where they’re determined to go.

Most alcoholics start with beer. If you outlaw beer will you eliminate alcoholism? (If you said yes, go stand in the corner.)

The gateway to addiction isn’t a drug. It’s in your mind.

Those who are bent on self-destruction will find their way there.

Stop that if you can.

Stand on the shore and shout at the tide while you’re at it.

And when you’ve shouted yourself hoarse, pipe down and remember this: The violent gangs of bootleggers who terrorized large swathes of this country disappeared when Prohibition ended in 1933 with the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

Reducing gang violence is always a good goal for law enforcement.

That and cracking down on those damn jaywalkers.