To the Editor:
We are law enforcement leaders in Moffat, Routt and Grand Counties, and wanted to express our concerns about Amendment 64, the effort to legalize "recreational" use of marijuana in Colorado.
First, we are concerned about any steps that might increase use of marijuana among children. Studies indicate that increased availability and increased perceptions of acceptability will increase underage use of marijuana, which already accounts for 67 percent of teenage substance abuse treatment in America. The evidence is also compelling to us that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to use and abuse of even more dangerous drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. Because of the permanent, lifelong debilitating effects of marijuana on young people, we are gravely troubled about Amendment 64's potential long term harm to our community's youth.
Second, the argument that the government should tax marijuana like alcohol and tobacco, and use those tax revenues to address the potential impacts, totally overlooks how little tax revenue is actually collected compared to the social costs of alcohol and tobacco use. In the US, the estimates are that communities spend $ 185 billion to address alcohol use but collect only $14.5 billion in tax revenues, or less than ten percent. Costs of tobacco use are estimated at $200 billion, yet we collect only $25 billion in tax revenues or about 12 percent. Consequently, we are concerned about the increased costs our community will be asked to bear from legalized marijuana, such as increases in drug-impaired driving, on top of the social costs we already carry from alcohol and tobacco use.
Third, it has taken our state government several years to begin to regulate medical marijuana and we are concerned that even now, enforcement resources for medical marijuana are insufficient. As a result, we are concerned that the time that it would take state authorities to build the structure to regulate a legalized marijuana industry will allow drug cartels and other criminal organizations to continue their penetration of that industry in Colorado. Significant evidence exists that these organizations use the medical marijuana umbrella to grow and ship marijuana to other states where it remains illegal. We are gravely concerned that Amendment 64 will even further open the opportunities for these illegal organizations to burrow into Colorado and use their bases here to expand illegal marijuana use across the country. We do not want marijuana to be what Colorado is best known for in America.
Some have argued that enforcement resources should not be directed to simple marijuana possession. We can assure you that our drug enforcement efforts focus on the most dangerous drugs in our communities - methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine -- and not simple marijuana possession, which is a petty offense in Colorado.
As law enforcement leaders who have devoted their lives to the safety of our wonderful community in Northwestern Colorado, we urge you to give careful consideration to Amendment 64 and to visit www.votenoon64.com for further information. Ultimately, we ask you to vote "no" on Amendment 64.
Brett Barkey, District Attorney
Sheriff Tim Jantz, Moffat County
Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, Routt County
Sheriff Rodney Johnson, Grand County
Chief Walter Vanatta, Craig Police Department
Chief Gordon Booco, Hayden Police Department
Chief Joel Rae, Steamboat Springs Police Department
Chief William Housley, Granby Police Department
Officer Ed Corriveau, Oak Creek Police Department
Officer Bobby Rauch, Oak Creek Police Department