Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
DIXIE NATIONAL FOREST, Utah — The hike through the woods, the hardened federal drug agents confess, has them a little intimidated.
The route pierces thick tangles of fallen trees before heading along a boulder-strewn creekbed and then directly up the side of a V-shaped canyon. On a topographical map, the terrain looks like a bowl of ramen noodles, full of squiggling lines turning back on themselves.
But at the very top of the canyon, where the lines squeeze closest together, is the reason for making the trek: a field of marijuana several thousand plants large, squatting on federal land.
"Regardless of where one stands on the marijuana issue," DEA Special Agent Arthur Street said the day before, "the big issue here is the damage to our public lands and the threat to public safety."
This is the other marijuana industry in America, the business of clandestine pot that supplies some of the estimated 16.7 million regular marijuana users in the country. Hidden in remote corners of land, concealed in underbrush, smuggled into the underground supply chain and sold on the street, it's weed done the old-fashioned way.
But its presence in the forests of southwestern Utah — a state with one of the lowest marijuana- use rates in the country and sandwiched between two medical-marijuana states — also raises a perplexing question. In a nation where more people have pathways to obtaining legally grown and sold marijuana, why are all these black-market pot plants still here?
Cannabis advocates often say the legitimate medical-marijuana industry has weakened the underground marijuana economy.
"We're making a dent in the black market," Josh Stanley, the owner of Denver dispensary Budding Health, told Colorado lawmakers during a legislative hearing this year. "The black market is now coming to us (to try to sell marijuana)."
But both federal marijuana-use statistics and law enforcement seizure and eradication numbers portray a different situation.
Federal estimates show the number of people shopping on the black market is rising, including in states with medical-marijuana programs. In some cases, though, subtracting medical-marijuana users from state data lowers the growth rate of black-market customers in medical-marijuana states.