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Second thoughts on the drug bust

Roger Marolt

I’ve changed my mind about the Dec. 2 drug raid on Little Annie’s and Cooper Street Pier.After forming an initial opinion based on a gut reaction, I read and listened. Then, I couldn’t shake the images that filled my mind – peaceable citizens of Aspen, relaxed visitors, innocent men, women and children settling down at a couple of our town’s more colorful saloons to take in some snacks and drinks, maybe share a few tales after an invigorating day on the slopes.With a loud crash the front door swings open violently. Somebody yells, “FREEZE! Leave your cell phones where they are!”People in the rear try to sneak out the back and are met by more of the 50 or so law enforcement agents assembled for the raid, guns drawn, meaning nothing but business. A man tries to comfort his terrified, screaming wife and is told to get his hands back in the air. Kids are crying, yet aren’t allowed to move toward their parents.After what seems like an eternity for the trapped patrons, the shakedown nets a few ounces of cocaine and one van full of undocumented workers. An evening in Aspen is ruined for more than a few innocent diners who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nightmares will undoubtedly continue for some who will never again be able to enjoy the disguised comfort and security of a public gathering place.A horrific bloodletting was narrowly avoided. What if just one of those drug dealers got scared, pulled a knife and grabbed one of those small children for a hostage? What if just one of the inexperienced small-town officers – adrenaline surging, nerves taut – accidentally pulled his trigger in the supercharged environment, setting off gunfire from all directions? What if the fighting had spilled out into the streets and out of the contained area? It would be hard for me to imagine that all of this actually happened right here in our little town … except for the fact that I think I did. When the story broke I conjured what I just described. I argued scornfully with people who supported our police chief. I thought it was criminal how our protectors had betrayed us.But, I had a nagging feeling. I knew something was missing from the story. Even though it was reported daily in our newspapers and talked about ceaselessly around town, the horror lacked credibility. Eyewitness accounts of the terror were distinctly missing. I am unaware of even a solitary witness stepping forward to describe the nightmarish events that supposedly occurred. Where were the innocent people who felt threatened? Where were the endangered children? Where are the attorneys seeking untold damages for the trauma suffered?In this age of the victim of victimization, isn’t it odd that not even one has surfaced? With that, I came off my DVD overdose and my HDTV images short circuited back to drab analog. The drug bust hadn’t come down in the “Dirty Harry” style that my mind fabricated. I doubt now that there were even any wiretaps involved, and none of the prisoners appears to have been tortured.Nonetheless, I was able to work myself up all over again. The fact remained that a paucity of cocaine was confiscated and not a single kingpin was dethroned. Despite the lack of dramatics, it had been a total waste of resources for what the sting netted.But alas, that, too, is what matters only in Hollywood scripts. If we were trying to save the world with that bust, we failed. No outside effort can keep us from our habits, vices, addictions, troubles. When it comes to drug use, nobody can help another who doesn’t want to be helped. Most of us have at least kicked a stone or two down that dark one-way path. If our object was to protect those most innocent and dear to us though, I believe our efforts were not in vain.I know that many things have changed around here since I was in high school, but some things have not. Kids start drinking. Kids start using drugs. Some hang out around bars in this town. They’re not supposed to, but they do. You may not have known this, but the jerk-off, two-bit drug dealers do. They also know that kids are curious about drugs and pose little threat to them. They know that small quantities of drugs are easier for kids to buy than a six-pack of beer. Our children are easy targets for these penny-ante pushers. The escapist nature of our town lends itself to prolific illegal drug use. That’s no secret. But, even if we fancy ourselves as being open-minded and progressive about that, even if we are willing to experiment with alternative ways to deal with it, we cannot ignore our duty to protect our children.This drug raid served notice on two fronts. First of all, if you are dealing drugs, even just small quantities for “recreational” use, you’re not safe, even here in Aspen. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, if you are a curious or casual user thinking about heading into town to score some dope, you might get into trouble with the law, too. The overriding message came through so loud and clear that it may have startled us: Selling, buying and using dope is illegal! We’ve tried unsuccessfully to fight the war on drugs by relying on our national government to seal off the perimeter of the country from drug traffickers. Perhaps it’s time for a new approach. Possibly the power is within us to take this fight into our own hands and curb demand from the inside out. I can’t do much about smugglers delivering freezer bags full of coke to dirt airstrips out in the desert at night. But, I can be diligent in educating my kids about the dangers of drug abuse.I appreciate the help in keeping temptation out of my own backyard while I’m in the process. Roger Marolt apologizes to all the people, including his own mother, who he initially thought were nuts to support the APD in this drug bust. His nose is in the corner at roger@maroltllp.com


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