BANGOR, Maine — When Thomas E. Delahanty II served a 15-month stint in 1980 and 1981 as Maine’s U.S. attorney, his staff was busy prosecuting people smuggling tons of marijuana into Maine’s coastal coves.
When the former state judge last month finished his second stint as U.S. attorney — this time having served nearly seven years — Maine was averaging more than one drug overdose per day due to an influx of heroin and other opiates.
“When I started, possession of marijuana, no matter the amount, was a felony,” Delahanty, 71, of Falmouth said recently. “Now it’s legal. The public attitude toward drugs like that has changed dramatically.”
Appointed U.S. attorney first by President Jimmy Carter and, decades later, by President Barack Obama, Delahanty was removed from office in early March by President Donald Trump. A permanent replacement has not been named.
Looking back over his long career, Delahanty pointed to evolution of the federal war on drugs and to computerization — both of crime and crime fighting — as among the biggest changes he observed.
“Back when I first started, you didn’t see the organized [drug-trafficking] groups from out of state and the violent groups coming in that you get today,” Delahanty said. “Back then, local people might go to Massachusetts or New York to get drugs and bring them back.
“Now, we have people from out of state actually bringing it up here,” he said. “The profits are such that they look at it as a business opportunity. Law enforcement keeps working