Drug task force commander out of touch on marijuana regulation, activist says
The Operation Sweet Leaf raids of 25 home grows were more than justified according to North Metro Drug Task Force Commander Jerry Peters. But in addition to talking with us about the busts, Peters also said that allowing adult recreational use of marijuana would constitute a tragic error -- a thesis rejected by Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act proponent Brian Vicente.
Peters documented the damage to homes created by unregulated grows, including mold that could endanger future residents. He also noted that illicit cultivators like those targeted by Operation Sweet Leaf, who allegedly shipped many pounds of product around the region, often run up massive electrical bills and then abandon the property without ponying up, increasing costs for all of us.
Vicente, who heads up the group Sensible Colorado, agrees that these are important issues. "We're not arguing that people should be able to grow marijuana in their homes on a large scale and ship it out of state," he says.
But he finds less common ground in other statements made by Peters. "There are still people who say, 'Why not make it like alcohol and regulate it? Then you could tax it, and you'd have all these revenues,'" he told us. "But that's just not the case. Look at all the problems we have with alcohol -- and the social cost to us is much, much higher than the revenue it brings in when you factor in traffic fatalities and addiction center visits and everything else."
Commander Jerry Peters.
Legalizing or regulating marijuana would "compound the problem, and I think it's going to make it even worse," Peters continued. "You're going to inundate the state with drugs -- and look at the problems we already have with prescription drugs. That's our second highest abuse problem in this state, and that's strictly regulated. And you can't really regulate marijuana, as we've learned through our medical marijuana program. That's a joke."
"I think Peters is the last of his kind -- a law enforcement officer who makes his living off of having marijuana be illegal," he allows. "He's afraid of new approaches about how to regulate a substance that's inarguably safer than alcohol -- and now it looks like he's ready to ban alcohol as well."
Not that Vicente thinks making alcohol illegal is the right thing to do. But he contends that "alcohol is just a far more dangerous substance for the user and for society. It contributes to problems of violence, including domestic violence, that marijuana simply does not. We're talking about apples and oranges here."
Page down to continue reading our interview with Brian Vicente.