Drugs In Maine Part One 

In the past few months we’ve seen police sieze a pound and a half of cocaine in Augusta, and nearly 3000 marijuana plants in Washington County.Drug related arrests have risen steadily in Maine the past 10 years. In 1998 there were less than 4000 drug arrests, compared to nearly 6000 in 2008.Glenn Ross is the Seriff in Penobscot County and he says a big reason for the increase in drug crimes is the explosion of opiates into the state. “When oxycodone first started entering the scene, we sounded an alarm,” says Sheriff Ross, “and said this is a drug that’s ripe for abuse and unfortunately, that medication is still on the shelves and still in the medicine cabinets of many homes and has completely changed the way law enforcement has to deal with the drug problem.”Law enforcement has more resources in urban areas, like Portland and Bangor, but officials at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency say the drug problem is everywhere. “Drug abuse and drug trafficking reaches into the smallest, most rural of communities in Maine,” says Roy Mckinney the Director of the MDEA, “we’re seeing that most prolifically with opiates, heroin, and prescription drugs. It doesn’t matter what town that you are in maine, there is probably diversion of prescription drugs and the sale and use of marijuana.”Authorities say senior citizens with extra prescription medications in their house have become the prey of drug traffickers. “What happens is people seem to collect their medications because they may need them later and they spent a lot of money on them,” says Sheriff Ross, “and don’t want to destroy them even though they can’t use them anymore, but the value of the oxycodone pill is around $100 a pill on the open market so it makes a senior ripe for a robbery.”Mckinney is says the opiates are in high demand. “It’s getting the streets merely by availability,” he says, “law enforcement attacks the drug problem through it’s efforts to disrupt and dismantle the supply side of drugs. The more drugs you have available, the more likelihood there is going to be a diversion in the use of those drugs.” The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department has several ways to get these medications out of people’s homes before they become victims. “We have a number of events where we collect unused pharmaceuticals,” says Sheriff Ross, “the most recent at the bangor mall back in october. we collected half a van full of unused medicines that people came in and then we safely destroy them.”Sheriff Ross also says they’re seeing the effects of the drug problem in the penobscot county jail. “20% of our inmates are addicted to opiates, a very high number, such things as oxycodone and heroin.”He says it’s a very expensive problem. “At the jail, it’s a real common event to have people coming in on 10 or 12 different medications and many of them, they’ve used up their 90 day prescription months in advance so they’re abusing these drugs before they get to our door and then we’re faced with a situation of trying to regulate their medications, and regulate mental health. It’s a huge problem for criminal justice.”Those trying to battle the problem say the solution is not harsher sentences. “Well I think the overall picture, we cannot jail our way out of that,” says Mckinney, “if you will, or arrest our way out of it. It takes a coordinated effort, and I think you’ll hear this from every law enforcement official. It takes a combined effort of not only enforcement to deal with the supply side, but also with the prevention, treatment, and recovery side. those are so important.”