To say I was caught off guard would be a fair statement describing my initial reaction to a question the Greater American Falls Area Chamber of Commerce received via email from a person looking to relocate to our fair city.
That question was about the seemingly consistent string of drug-related arrests on I-86 between exit 40 and the Cassia County line. This person asked if American Falls was some type of haven for drug traffickers based on reports here in The Power County Press and other regional news outlets.
I was taken aback for a moment because I had never looked at it that way before.
From this person’s perspective, the drug runners were originating from American Falls and being caught as they began their journeys. Being confronted by the idea, I re-examined the reports through a new lens. And I can certainly see where that impression came from. Without the benefit of knowledge of local geography American Falls appears to be the starting point for this nefarious activity.
I can only blame a reliance on local shorthand and assumption for not being clearer. When local authorities issue press releases informing the media of an arrest, the location is given by mile marker and the nearest town or city and that is how we report it. The other piece of information that is given to reporters is the home town of the offender.
Being from here and knowing the offenders are not, I relied on those two facts to convey the message these people were just passing through.
Being forced to take a new look at these reports, I felt a little more explanation is in order.
Power County is lucky to be located near the I-86 interchange. This interchange is one of the major American crossroads, giving travelers access to major east and west routes, as well as north and south freeways. Businesses are daily benefiting from having ready access to these shipping arteries.
This means Power County is on the main transit path between the west coast, Oregon and Washington states, and Montana. All three of those states along with others farther east have laws legalizing the use of marijuana.
Some of those caught transporting marijuana may have the proper prescriptions or rights to possess and use marijuana in their home states or they may simply feel being from a state that offers the legal use of marijuana offers them the protection they need to transport the narcotic from one legalized state to another through a state that does not have a legal path to pot use.
This is simply not true. No state or local law enforcement branch is required to enforce another state’s laws. In the case of Idaho, state and local policing agencies are charged with enforcing only local, Idaho state and federal laws not those of other sovereign states.
Those in favor of legalizing marijuana might argue they are allowed to transport other prescription drugs through our state without recourse, but the difference is federal certification. In simplistic terms Idaho cannot seize prescription drugs that are recognized by the federal government. Marijuana does not fit this criterion.
It is a sad reality we must acknowledge that there is drug use in American Falls and Power County. Based on statistical probability there is no real way to have a truly drug-free area. However, the problems of local drug use are no larger than any other community of similar size.
Perhaps it is a matter of convenience to cherry-pick the most upbeat perspective, but after having taken another look at the issue I hope it is clear that American Falls and Power County are not havens for drug runners. Just merely a sign post along the way to the ultimate destination of these substances.
I also hope to make the point our law enforcement community, the American Falls Police Department, Power County Sheriff’s Office and Idaho State Police are working diligently every day to keep drugs from reaching the communities in other states for which these drugs were intended.