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The Scoop - Drugs and crime forever linked
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The man was dressed in an orange jumpsuit, shackled by handcuffs and sitting at the defense table in Circuit Court. It was from that spot he would learn his fate for the coming decades – 23 years in prison for murder.

It was a murder Michael Cody Mills committed while reportedly out of his mind on meth. It was said during court that Mills was so hopelessly impaired, he would have shot his own mother had she shown up at that time.

For those who follow local court cases, one thing is abundantly clear. Drugs are the common denominator for virtually all crime.

A man blows through a Highway Patrol roadblock and leads law enforcement on a high-speed chase through most of McMinnville because he’s high on meth.

Two masked men barge into a house on Lind Street and kill the homeowner because they were reportedly looking to steal cocaine.

A man rips off his own aunt and uncle because he wants their prescription medication.

These are just a few of the real-life stories that have been heard at Warren County Courthouse in recent weeks. These stories all show the misery of lives upended by drugs.

“I’d say 90 percent of all our court cases, in some form or fashion, are related to drugs,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “Just about every theft, every violent offense, and a large number of domestic situations are related to drug abuse or alcohol.”

I realize it’s no major newsflash that drugs and crime are joined at the hip, but it’s worth emphasizing this point at a time when we seem to be warming up to greater drug acceptance. A recent Pew Research Center poll found a convincing 74 percent of millennials support legalizing marijuana, which is already allowed for recreational use in 10 states and the District of Columbia. 

Tennessee strongly considered medical marijuana this legislative session before the bill was pulled.

Marijuana is by no means meth or opioids, but it’s not smart to welcome any type of drug activity, especially with the mind-altering strains of pot being used today.

“The best way to treat this, bar none, is with prevention programs that are done in the schools,” said Zavogiannis. “After that we have to do our best to shore up more treatment options. It’s going to take all of us. It can’t be just law enforcement. The whole community has to work together and if you see something, speak up and stand up and be willing to make a difference.”

With our court system flooded with drug cases and so many repeat drug offenders, slowing the problem may feel like an insurmountable challenge. Zavogiannis said that should serve as motivation to work even harder.

“We can’t throw our hands in the air and give up,” she said. “We’re going to keep prosecuting people. We’re going to keep treating people, and we’re going to keep working on prevention. We have to do all that and keep doing it again and again.”

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.