Libertarian Sheriff Just Says No To The Drug War

Libertarian Sheriff Just Says No To The Drug War
Posted by FoM on August 28, 2000 at 13:17:21 PT
By Nancy Lofholm, Denver Post Western Slope Bureau
Source: Denver Post
When Bill Masters was just a little towheaded shaver growing up in Los Angeles, he had a curious habit that signaled where he was going in life. Crossing streets, he would clutch his mother with one hand and direct traffic with the other.Some 45 years later, he still puzzles about this. He grew up in a family of academics, not cops. But law enforcement drew Masters and turned him into a county sheriff who breaks out of the box - a sheriff who thinks, and more importantly says, that the war on drugs is ludicrous, the criminal justice system is a farce and the law-making arm of the government has run amok.
Masters' philosophy has played well in San Miguel County and its famous county seat of Telluride, a town that has gone from hard-working, hard-playing mining burg to chic playground-of-the-rich resort in the 25 years Masters has been in law enforcement here.He is now in his fifth term as sheriff. He has the distinction of being the nation's only registered Libertarian Party sheriff. And he holds the highest elected office among Colorado Libertarians.Since he "came out" as a Libertarian candidate in the 1998 election after previously having to run as a Republican to be included on the ballot, his popularity has only grown. He won with 80 percent of the vote, his largest margin ever.Masters, who favors Hawaiian shirts over staid uniforms, doesn't order people to obey Colorado's 33,000 laws - many of which he believes are unnecessary. His message instead is that citizens be responsible.Excuses such as "alcohol made me do it" won't fly in his county, where violent crime falls well below the national norm and the average sheriff's log is made up of motorist troubles, illegal campfires and burglaries."Libertarians say there is no excuse if you hurt someone or their property. You have to be held accountable," said the 49-year-old Masters, a Libertarian for half his life.Masters extends that gospel of personal responsibility to victims.In a "message from the sheriff" printed on the back of a victims' rights pamphlet, Masters tells citizens of his county: "It is your responsibility to protect yourself and your family from criminals. If you rely on the government for protection, you are going to be at least disappointed and at worst injured or killed." The one area of the law that really sets Masters apart - the subject that spurs him to wave his arms and roll his desk chair back and forth to punctuate important points - is drugs.When he was first appointed and later elected sheriff in the late 1970s, Masters said he wanted to prove he could be tough on drugs. He helped bust the former town marshal, a former town board member and a number of wellknown citizens. He even received a framed certificate of appreciation from the Drug Enforcement Administration that now hangs on a wall of his spare office along with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, the poem "If," and a small sign advising his employees to GOYAKOD (get off your a-- and knock on doors)."Just look at how much good those arrests did," Masters said with a wry laugh. "We spend $50 billion a year on drug enforcement in this country, and we let pedophiles and murderers out of prison because there is not enough room. The prisons are full of drug users." Masters said a number of other Colorado sheriffs have told him in private that they agree with his drug stance. But they won't say it publicly. If they did, they might not be re-elected.Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis is one of the few openly in Masters' corner."I share his philosophy. If you have a drug problem you should go to the doctor, not to jail," Braudis said. "Bill has let that genie out of the bottle and not suffered politically for it. He has an awful lot of courage for stating this." Ron Crickenberger, national political director of the Libertarian Party, said Masters has become a "shining example" for other Libertarians across America who are considering running for law enforcement positions while openly opposing drug laws.Masters spoke about that stance when he addressed the National Libertarian Convention in June.He told convention attendees a story about a trip he made to the FBI training academy in Quantico, Va., several years ago.He said he was brokenhearted to find the academy swarming with bright, enthusiastic young agents-in-training for the DEA but only a handful of older, overworked agents assigned to a case dealing with suspected child abductions by a serial killer.Masters, a man known for his infectious giggle, doesn't try to hide the tears running down one cheek when he repeats the story in his office.He had gone to Quantico for help with the case of a young Montrose woman whose murdered body was found in his county two years after she was abducted from a Montrose parking lot.The Buffy Rice Donohue murder case is one that Masters, a father of four, has refused to let die even after other law enforcement officials have washed their hands of it.The man believed to have killed Donohue is facing a death sentence in two other murders and has never been prosecuted for Donohue's murder. His former girlfriend, whom Masters said he believes was an accomplice in the murder, has been sentenced only for being an accessory.Masters is continuing to investigate to bring some overdue justice in Donohue's murder.He showed the same dogged determination in the 1990 murder of Eva Berg Shoen, a resident of the Telluride Ski Ranches. It took five years of meticulous investigative work to arrest and convict a New Mexico man for the slaying.Masters said solving that case was possible because his deputies were able to focus on the crime because they didn't have to spend half their time chasing after drug dealers. He also said that he doesn't allow them to spend their time on "touchy-feely" extra programs such as drug education in schools.Jill Masters, who worked as a sheriff's investigator before marrying Bill Masters 10 years ago, said she doesn't view what her husband is doing as radical."It's actually old-fashioned. It's the way law enforcement used to be practiced," she said.But Braudis said he expects Masters to be recognized someday as "an early pioneer" for his cutting-edge stance on the drug war.Crickenberger said he expects even more."I would certainly like to see Bill run for a higher office - for state representative or Congress," Crickenberger said. "We will be encouraging him to do so." Published: Aug. 28, 2000Source: Denver Post (CO)Copyright: 2000 The Denver PostContact: letters denverpost.comAddress: 1560 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202Fax: (303) 820.1502Website: CannabisNews Police Archives:
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Comment #5 posted by Kanabys on October 13, 2000 at 07:34:16 PT
>>hey kanaby, just do only live once and not for very long in the whole sceme of things.But, if ya think that it seems like 4ever getting weed legalized, then think how 4ever would be streched out sitting in a prison cell. That's my point. Peace
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Comment #4 posted by nl5x on August 29, 2000 at 17:22:11 PT
medical marijuana
hey kanaby, just do only live once and not for very long in the whole sceme of things.
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Comment #3 posted by Kanabys on August 29, 2000 at 08:00:54 PT
More power to ya....
Right on FreedomFighter!!!! If I had some seed, I'd drive up and help ya. I don't grow cause Texas is a BAD place, but I most positively would if I weren't so damned fearful of the pigs!! Free Country my BUTT!!
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Comment #2 posted by freedom fighter on August 28, 2000 at 19:02:53 PT
Open letter to the Colorado Law enforcers
I am a grower.I grow marjuana.I ask you please leave me alone.I have never shot or hit anyone.I grow because I love the smell of this plant.It does not kill or harm anyone.Just to let you know, there has been bad wildfires out here and I am goin to throw hemp/cannnabis seeds to help the land heal itself. 
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Comment #1 posted by Libertarian on August 28, 2000 at 18:16:21 PT
This is how it should be!!!
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