State panel seeks grand jury for drug kingpins

December 13, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

Maryland needs a statewide grand jury to crack down on drug kingpins and to seize their hidden assets to pay for prevention programs, the head of the Governor's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission said yesterday.

While the state has seen evidence of an overall decline in alcohol and drug addiction over the past four years, "we have not turned the corner on drug abuse. . . . There is not really a significant improvement," said Dr. Neil Solomon, the recently appointed commission chairman.

Dr. Solomon faulted the federal government for failing to provide money and leadership in the war on drugs, suggesting Washington political motives for avoiding this unpopular subject.

Federal funds spent on stopping drug traffic abroad could be more profitably spent at home on treatment and prevention, he added.

"We have to come up with more ways to deal with the realities that there will be no new funds," said the former state health secretary, noting that further funding cuts are expected.

While the commission is not proposing new state legislation in 1992, Dr. Solomon said, the lack of a statewide grand jury makes it difficult for authorities to cross county lines to prosecute major drug dealers and locate their often considerable assets for seizure by the government.

Because of legislator resistance, the commission will wait until 1993 to push for that grand jury system and a financial investigative arm to uncover dealer assets, he said.

The commission's annual report urged increased emphasis on local, community-based programs that can identify at-risk groups and provide prevention activities.

The report was released at The Door, an East Baltimore center that provides after-school tutoring and self-esteem-building activities for neighborhood youngsters.

Other projects the 2-year-old commission cited as successes included a parenting and support program for pregnant teen-agers in Harford County, an educational and social program for latchkey kids in Prince George's County and a project in Caroline and Dorchester counties that involves at-risk youths in social service to the elderly and needy.

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