MONTPELIER (AP) -- Funding for Vermont’s marijuana eradication program has declined and so has the number of domestically grown plants that have been destroyed.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn says resources are better spent fighting an opiate trade that fuels burglaries, pharmacy robberies and other crimes.
"Very frankly, we want to make sure that we are utilizing our law-enforcement resources in Vermont in the best way possible," he said. "And when we look at heroin and opiates and other drugs causing an increase in break-ins and burglaries and drug-store robberies, that becomes the emphasis for us."
The budget for the so-called cannabis eradication program has dropped from $34,000 in 2011 to $25,000 for 2012 and 2013. Fifteen years ago the yearly budget was $60,000.
The Drug Enforcement Administration launched the so-called "Domestic Cannabis Eradication Program," nationally in 1985. In Vermont, state police search for crops in Air Guard helicopters each fall.
But after a drop in federal funding, eradication numbers also are down. DEA statistics show that 1,500 outdoor and indoor plants were destroyed last year, compared to 6,400 in 1998 and 4,000 in 2010, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reports. Arrests related to the discovery of the marijuana cultivation also have declined.
Last year state police arrested 14 people in connection with cannabis eradication, down from 49 in 2010 and 100 in 2002.
Vermont passed a law this year that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he thinks marijuana should be legalized in the state but not right now.