Marijuana busts timed by law enforcement to undermine Amendment 64?
The Colorado Attorney General's office announcement of a 59-count indictment against Silver Lizard dispensary weeks after a law-enforcement survey showing medical marijuana was being diverted raised a question that's buzzed in the background amid the campaign for Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: Will cops and prosecutors step up and perhaps even time pot busts to hurt the measure's chances of passage?
When asked about this possibility, Brian Vicente, one of Amendment 64's primary proponents, doesn't wholeheartedly embrace this theory. But neither does he casually reject it.
Regarding claims that medical marijuana is routinely and knowingly sold by dispensaries for illicit purposes, and often winds up beyond state lines, Vicente says, "The big picture is, we have hundreds and hundreds of medical marijuana shops that are operating in a fully legally compliant manner. There appear to be some bad apples, and those businesses should be dealt with accordingly. But it's important that we don't simply overturn our state regulations, which are really working well, because of those bad apples. That would be a bad scenario, where patients would be forced to go to the streets, and we'd be handing over the distribution of marijuana to underground cartels. That's not good for Colorado in any way."
Agencies like the Colorado Attorney General's office, led by John Suthers, a longtime opponent of the medical marijuana system, see the situation very differently. Here's an excerpt from a 2010 letter written by Suthers to the Colorado legislature:
Embracing dispensaries or clinics as a means of commercially distributing marijuana will have profound adverse societal ramifications. Research consistently shows the adolescent marijuana use is a function of accessibility to the drug and social acceptance of the drug; (i.e., the more youth perceive smoking marijuana as a normative behavior, the greater their use of the drug). We've seen significant reduction in teenage use of marijuana over the last several years. Colorado's embrace of commercial dispensaries and the resulting perception that using marijuana is normative behavior, will change that trend. Liberalization of marijuana laws in Alaska, Holland and other places led to significant increases in teenage use. The research also shows that increased adolescent use of marijuana has a high correlation with more serious drug addiction, high school dropout rates and crime, including violent crime. The revenue generated from the marijuana industry will not cover the societal costs we will all incur.
Suthers's views haven't softened over the intervening two years. In his release about the Silver Lizard indictments, he specifically mentioned "Colorado's 'Medical' Marijuana," a report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area detailing more than seventy instances when MMJ from here was sold or distributed illegally.
"This indictment and its allegation that medical marijuana was sold out of the back door of a dispensary for distribution to other states is consistent with information gathered by a recent Rocky Mountain HIDTA survey of Colorado law enforcement agencies," Suthers said in a statement. "It is becoming clear that as predicted in 2010 legislative hearings, Colorado is becoming a significant exporter of marijuana to the rest of the country."
Rocky Mountain HIDTA director Tom Gorman agrees -- and in a our post about survey's findings, he argued that the passage of Amendment 64 would make a bad situation worse.
Page down to read more about marijuana actions and Amendment 64.