The Denver Post
Consider this a front-line report from Colorado's War on Marijuana. As a 36-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, I'm joining many of my fellow law enforcement officials to say that the battle is being lost.
Our combined efforts to stop marijuana use have not only failed, but they've actually made Colorado communities more dangerous, not less, and at a tremendous expense in lives and dollars.
Unless we change strategies, drug use won't be reduced, respect for the law will continue to erode, and untold numbers of Coloradans' lives will be ruined — all at an ever-increasing cost.
While elected officials are reluctant to act, Coloradans are taking the issue into their own hands, forcing much-needed change at the ballot box next year.
Since Richard Nixon declared a joint federal-state-local War on Drugs in 1971, we've pursued two strategies: interdiction (seizing the drugs to choke off supply) and prosecution of users (to discourage demand).
Pursuing those strategies, my fellow officers arrested 12,358 otherwise law-abiding Coloradans in 2007. Almost all these arrests, 94 percent, were for simple possession (as opposed to sale) of marijuana.
Although we don't have specific figures for the fiscal cost to Colorado taxpayers, we know that nationwide, enforcing marijuana laws costs taxpayers roughly $8 billion every year.
Pot prohibition adds to Americans' increasing disregard for the law, and any patrolman can tell you how widespread — and dangerous — this lack of respect has become.
Just as with prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, our efforts have created a criminal class that reaps billions of dollars satisfying America's steady appetite for marijuana.
Since arrests and seizures haven't worked, let's try the only approach left: restrict the possession and sale of marijuana to adults age 21 and above and set up a system to regulate and tax it, just like alcohol.
A measure is likely to appear on the November 2012 ballot that would do just that, making Colorado the first state in the nation sensible enough to face the facts of marijuana prohibition and pursue a better approach.
Under the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, marijuana prohibition will be repealed: adult Coloradans will be able to purchase and possess limited amounts of marijuana for their own private use.
Instead of permitting criminal gangs and foreign drug cartels to profit from street-level drug sales, this new law will enable local and state government to take in revenue, just as they do with alcohol.
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.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
The Denver Post