In part because it often serves as a gateway drug leading to use of far more dangerous mind-altering substances, marijuana clearly deserves the attention of law enforcement agencies. But should it be a top priority of West Virginia State Police?
Unfortunately, the Mountain State's climate, soil and rural nature seem to have made it a center for cultivation of marijuana. West Virginia was among the five states where search-and- destroy campaigns against marijuana resulted in the highest numbers of seizures last year. More than 185,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in our state last year.
State Police officials say they already have found and destroyed about 150,000 marijuana plants this year. The annual total could top last year's.
Obviously, that represents a major success in the multi-fronted war on illegal drugs. State Police - and the local agencies that often work with them to find marijuana "farms" - are to be commended.
It may be that some resources should be diverted from the marijuana eradication program and dedicated instead to enforcing laws against other, more dangerous drugs.
Think of the situation this way: When was the last time you read of an overdose death involving marijuana? A murder committed in a battle among marijuana dealers? An armed robbery of a drug store in which marijuana was the target?
Our point exactly: Most violent crime related to illegal drugs or misuse of legal substances involves heroin, cocaine, "bath salts" and other synthetic drugs, including some that mimic the effects of marijuana.
This is not to second-guess State Police officials, who have long experience in the war against drugs. Still, it may be that they should take another look at how scarce - and probably in the future scarcer - police resources are employed. Devoting more time and effort to battling harder drugs may be a better strategy.