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Official Blasts Pot Law In Wake Of Raid

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"This is what can happen to a community when it becomes permissive and tolerant of narcotics." The state's top federal narcotics agent used these sharp words this morning in a stinging indictment of Ann Arbor. James J. Vernier, Regional Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, appeared at a press conference with his deputy director, Allan R. Pringle and City Police Chief Walter E. Krasny. The three law enforcement officers met with newsmen at City Hall in the wake of a massive federal-local police sweep Wednesday which brought 36 arrests from a total of 55 warrants for drug sales. The search for the rest is underway. Vernier said the ten-week investigation which centered in Ann Arbor resulted in the confiscation of narcotics with a street value of $4,000,000. Vernier said the investigation has crippled a drug supply center for seven states and he called the arrests one of the largest drug operations to be broken up in the nation. Drugs purchased during the investigation by undercover agents included six pounds of cocaine, ten ounces of brown heroin, six pounds of hashish, nine ounces of phencyclidine and 4,000 tablets of barbiturates. Four ounces of methamphetamine (speed) was also purchased. Most of the drugs could be "cut" by dealers to increase the amount for sale, Vernier pointed out. Another 90 pounds of hashish, two grams of cocaine and almost three pounds of phencyclidine were seized by arresting agents Wednesday. Those arrested were transported from Ann Arbor police headquarters to the Oakland County Jail in Pontiac for temporary lodging. They were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Detroit today. Conviction on the possession or sale of the drugs can bring five years in a federal prison and fines up to $15,000. "Ann Arbor has a dedicated, professional police department," Vernier told the newsmen. "But they don't have the tools. They're hampered, restricted by city ordinance. When we find local authorities powerless to act in this kind of situation we're going to go in and assist them. We really don't have the manpower to do it. We've got 2,000 federal agents for the world. But in this type of situation we'll do it." Director Vernier said Krasny is in need of the "support of the community, the involvement of the community ..." to combat the local drug problem. I The federal agent said Ann Arbor's ordinance which makes marijuana possession a $5 "ticket fine" goes "far beyond personal possession. . . ." Vernier said traffic in marijuana and hashish is "big business ... big business for a lot of people ... we are computing confiscation of marijuana these days in terms of tons. ..." "We're talking about drug abuse now," Vernier said. "I think the record shows when someone starts on marijuana there is a progression to other drugs, a progressive drug abuse." Chief Krasny agreed with Vernier that under the present city ordinance which makes virtually any marijuana apprehension a'$5 "ticket" offense his department can do little to fight narcotics traffic. He said since the $5 fine was made law with the provision that police who attempt to bring a state charge in such a case can themselves be prosecuted, drug traffic has "greatly increased" in the city. "We in the field knew this would probably happen," Krasny said. "Currently we have no budget for direct narcotics investigation. Under our present law a dealer can drop a hundred pounds of marijuana in front of City Hall and we can do nothing about it. It bothers us that a dealer can come in here and set up a business and we must decide whether to give him a $5 ticket or risk a pólice officer going to jail for doing his job." Krasny stressed that his department is in need of a revised marijuana city ordinance and then "money for a narcotics unit and people to operate it." The chief said the present situation, which moved Director Vernier to describe Ann Arbor as "... a virtual marketplace for heroin, cocaine, hashish, marijuana and other drugs . . :, started in the late 1960s when some local groups began campaigning to have marijuana made legal. Vernier said the streets, cafes and U-M student housing facilities were the "marketplace" for all types of drugs. He said while there was drug traffic in the city prior to the 1974 $5 marijuana ordinance passing, the new law accelerated drug traffic here. . "Any community which develops a permissive attitude and tolerance toward any abusable drug, such as marijuana, can expect to see trafficking in more hazardous substances," Vernier said. Vernier stressed at this morning's conference that his federal agents entered the Ann Arbor probe after meetings were held with Chief Krasny and the situation was evaluated. Vernier said his agents will continue to probe the Ann Arbor area for drug traffic. In emphasizing that all drug dealing, including sales of marijuana, is big business Vernier said that one of the suspects arrested Wednesday, Donald Van Tress from near Hamburg in Livingston County, had $24,000 in cash on him at the time of his apprehension. He also said that an operation at 166b Broadway allegedly headed by John Pena, 31, did an annual narcotic business of $250 000. He said two sisters, Debbie Weills, 23, and Beth Weills, 19, acted as carriers out of the Broadway address, traveling to Mexico to pick up marijuana. At the time of his arrest Pena had 90 pounds of hashish in his possession. Vernier said. The Weills sisters were picked up in Aspen Colorado Wednesday. Beth Weills was once a calender model for "Hustler" magazine, agents said. Among those arrested Wednesday was a Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department dog warden, James Moscara, 25, 2530 S. Main Street.