Boyle sheriff, Junction police chief not opposed to medical marijuana

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins and Junction City Police Chief Merle Baldwin are not opposed to Kentucky considering the legalization of medical marijuana.

Asked if medical marijuana could “help with the opioid crisis,” Robbins said “I don’t think it would hurt to try. I mean, what we’re doing now is not working.”

Robbins, Baldwin and other local law enforcement representatives including Danville Police Chief Tony Gray spoke on numerous topics including medical and recreational marijuana use during the Boyle County Republicans’ monthly meeting at Mallard’s Monday night.

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“I don’t know the last time we charged anybody with (possession of marijuana),” Robbins said. “It’s just not on our radar as something that’s affecting this community like the opiates and stuff like that.”

Baldwin said legalizing marijuana for medical purposes could be the “saving grace” of Kentucky’s current budget woes.

Baldwin said he’s seeing support from many law enforcement chiefs across the state for medical marijuana.

“As the evils that we deal with on a daily basis, marijuana is not one of them,” he said.

Baldwin said it’s “hard to say” for sure whether medical marijuana would successfully help with the current opioid addiction problem. But, he said, “I personally know people that smoke marijuana today … and I know people that are doing heroin and stuff like that. It’s a different mindset; it really is.”

One attendee asked about her concern that any level of marijuana legalization would allow children to access the drug, which has been shown to be detrimental to the development of younger brains.

“They’re going to get it anyway,” Baldwin said.

Another member of the audience said he knows of a person who wanted to use marijuana for medical purposes in Kentucky, and the person wound up having to go to kids to get the drug.

Baldwin said teenagers today view marijuana the same way teens in his day viewed smoking cigarettes.

“Now, it’s pretty accepted. I mean socially, it’s accepted. Whether it’s right or not? Who knows,” Baldwin said. “It still is against the law in the state of Kentucky. And as law enforcement, I know we will all uphold that law — but not as stringently as we would if it was an opioid or a pill, something like that.”

Multiple people in attendance voiced support for the use of medical marijuana, but there were some opposed to using the drug as well.

“The thing I have a problem with marijuana is because the more stuff you put into the community that’s mind-altering … the more they’re out driving vehicles, the more we have to deal with them,” one attendee said. “… I’m really against legalizing marijuana. If a prescription needs to be given, there’s pills they can take.”

(Ben Kleppinger/
Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins talks to attendees of the Boyle County Republicans’ monthly meeting at Mallard’s Monday night.

Chief Gray said legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado “has not been the savior they thought it would be” and he believes there are more people now not working in the state because they’re smoking marijuana instead.

“I’m just totally against it,” he said. “I think it predisposes people to other drugs.”

Other topics addressed during the two-hour meeting included:

Church safety: The law enforcement officers said some churches are opting to have additional security measures during services following the recent church shooting in Texas.

Robbins encouraged churches to have members of the congregation carry concealed weapons and have greeters in the parking lot who could identify a threat early.

Gray cautioned that not everyone in a church needs to have a gun on them and churches that want to have people carrying guns should consider utilizing small groups of trained individuals who all know each other and know the plan if an emergency arises.

Crime and jail: On a question about jail overcrowding from a man who said he thinks every person in the jail is one less person who could otherwise be committing a crime, Robbins said it’s “frustrating to us when you deal with the same person over and over and over again.”

Robbins said that “some addicts need help, but I do think that you only get so many opportunities and you should take advantage of them.”

“I’m not saying that they don’t need help, but I’m kind of on the other side of the fence,” he said. “It’s our job to take care of all the innocent people first. And once we take care of them, then we can move our resources somewhere else.”

Alcohol: The same man asked why the jail population is as high as it is and suggested the proliferation of alcohol sales and alcohol-related businesses in Boyle County could be to blame.

Gray said “part of the problem is we’re not policing just Boyle County.”

“We do have restaurants that serve alcohol, but it’s not just the alcohol,” he said. “… people come here, they work here, they go to the movies here.”

At one point when he looked at data on arrests, about 50 percent of arrests were people from outside Boyle County, he said.

“We are policing more than just Boyle County and Danville, and that’s part of our problem, and it’s part of the reason that we’re not quite as effective,” Gray said.

Baldwin, who does double duty as police chief and ABC administrator, said Junction City has been wet for a little more than four years, while violent crime has gone down 62 percent in the last five years.

“I don’t know why … it’s got to be alcohol, there’s no other reason. Our DUI rates have dropped,” he said. “I know it’s a bad thing in some ways, and it’s a good thing financially for us. It’s saved us — it really has. It’s really saved our community.”

Mental detentions: Robbins said mental detention orders have become a substantial strain on his department.

Outside law enforcement agencies are bringing people in need of mental help into Boyle County and leaving them at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, instead of filing a mental detention order and transporting the people to Lexington themselves, he said.

That leaves the Danville hospital to fill out the mental detention order, which results in the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office being required to transport the person to Lexington, taking a deputy away from working in Boyle County for around three hours, he said.

“I’ll tell you a specific case (from) Casey County,” Robbins said. “This guy was high on meth. They arrested this guy, pepper-sprayed him and tased him, brought him to Ephraim McDowell hospital and left him in there, and gave the doctor handcuffs and a handcuff key and said, ‘give these cuffs to the ambulance crew, and then take them off when they come back.'”

Robbins said it would be good if the state legislature would put in place a law defining the appropriate actions when dealing with someone who needs a mental detention order; as it is right now, cities with a regional medical center such as Danville and Richmond are frequently dealing with the problem of outside law enforcement agencies dumping people on them to deal with.

Robbins said his office probably has to issue around 150 mental detention orders a year, but only about 20 to 30 of those are for Boyle County residents.