VAIL, Colorado — Marijuana can be bad and it generates half the Mexican drug cartels' money — but what to do about it?
Legalize it, say Jared Polis and Dr. Ethan Nadelmann.
Increase enforcement, say John Suthers and Anthony Coulson.
They had a rhetorical battle royale.
The four offered a preview Tuesday night of what could be one of Colorado's least mellow debates — legalizing marijuana. The Vail Symposium hosted the event Tuesday at Vail Mountain School. It will be broadcast on C-Span.
Suthers is Colorado's Attorney General. Coulson is a former assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tucson office.
Dr. Ethan Nadelmann is head of the Drug Policy Alliance and advocates for legalization. Polis represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Eagle County.
“Here we are 40 years into the drug war. Does anyone think it's been a success?” Polis asked. “It's time for a different strategy. The vast majority agrees that the war on drugs is a massive and comprehensive failure.”
The War on Drugs has failed because we have not done enough, Coulson said.
“We have people who need help who aren't getting it,” Coulson said. “If we invest, in a generation or so hopefully we won't need a DEA.”
In a keynote address for NORML's 40th anniversary, Polis said that he'd introduce a law to decriminalize marijuana.
“Is marijuana harmful? Absolutely. All drugs are potentially harmful,” Polis said, but marijuana is more comparable to alcohol and cigarettes than the more dangerous narcotics.
“Marijuana prohibition has caused far more harm than good,” Polis said.
Suther hit back hard.
“You guys need to get out in the streets more,” Suthers said. “The people who want to raise the white flag to drug legalization say the problems could not be any worse. Folks, they're flat wrong.”
In the 1960 and '70s, 14 percent said they used drugs once a month, Suthers said. In the 1980s, drug use rates fell, and have continued below what they were 30 years ago.
“You don't see addicts up here advocating for the legalization of marijuana, or prevention and treatment folks and law enforcement people on the street,” Coulson said.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, August 18, 2011