According to the New York Times, New Hampshire, where I live, is second only to West Virginia for the highest per capita rate of deaths from opioid addiction.
And I don’t just live in a drug-infested state, as the President called New Hampshire in a January phone call. I live in what for a while was a drug-infested village.
A state trooper I know refers to my town of Plainfield as “Pleasantville” where residents often left doors unlocked and sometimes keys in car ignitions. And after moving into the village of East Plainfield in the 90s, I'd take walks up a dirt road with my English Setter I’d say hi to my neighbor Michael, who lived just a quarter mile from my house.
Then I stopped seeing him and wondered if he’d moved. But according to court records, Michael was home and quite busy as the ring-leader of a five-person drug sales and distribution network.
Between March 2014 and June 2015, he and his conspirators reportedly imported kilogram quantities of bath salts from China for distribution in Springfield, Vermont.
Mind you, these aren’t salts you’d add to a bath to relax. They’re smoked or dissolved in the mouth; they mimic amphetamines and produce delirium that can last for days.
In November 2015, my neighbor was arrested on federal drug conspiracy charges. And last December he was sentenced to a six-year prison term.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, Springfield Police Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, New Hampshire Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Plainfield Police Department and FBI all collaborated on the investigation.
It was bad enough having my formerly friendly neighbor become a local drug kingpin. But the village also had to deal with what we called Michael’s clientele. A couple cars were stolen and houses robbed. One night our little village had almost all its mailboxes pilfered for mail-ordered prescription drugs. Last fall, from my family room window, I witnessed a pedestrian I didn’t recognize get stopped, searched, and driven away in a police cruiser.
It was unnerving to see how quickly our village could become a hostage to one individual’s drug problem. But the problem isn’t just East Plainfield’s – or New Hampshire’s, for that matter.
It’s a nation problem. And instead of making disparaging remarks about an entire state, I’d like to see the President do more to help.